You know when your sweat glands are working (did I forget deodorant today?), and your salivary glands, too (mmm, bacon). But the thyroid gland is a little more mysterious. Responsible for some of the most important hormones in our body, it regulates everything from metabolism, respiration and circulation to reproduction. Anita Skariah, DO, UNC Healthcare, explains that it’s a finicky hormone to maintain. “Too little of it causes a constellation of symptoms, and too much of the hormone does the same,” she says. Additionally, autoimmune conditions, insufficient iodine consumption, inflammation, and tumors in the gland all wreak havoc on the delicate balance of your hormones. So how will you know if something is going on with your thyroid? Here are 12 surprising signs you may need to have your thyroid checked.
There are many reasons for lack of energy—including diet, sleeplessness, and environmental factors. However, Dr. Skariah points out that having too little or too much of thyroid hormone will make you feel fatigued, “like you are moving through mud.”
Many men and women experience this as they age, but if you notice sudden hair loss, you may think about calling your doctor. “Too much or too little of thyroid hormone will cause hair to shed rapidly or not grow,” explains Dr. Skariah. “The thyroid is needed for growth.”
There are many reasons for swelling in the legs, and one of them is a lack of thyroid hormone. “It can cause deposits of substances called mucopolysaccharides in the skin. This can also be found in the face and tongue. Excessive thyroid production, such as in Graves’ disease, can also produce this change,” Dr. Skariah points out.
Do you have an irregular period? Maybe you should get your thyroid checked. “Thyroid hormone regulates ovulation and the production of hormones,” says Dr. Skariah. “If there is too much or too little of thyroid hormone, you may see changes in your cycles.”
Having issues with your bowel movements? “Too little of thyroid hormone impairs gut motility, leading to constipation, while too much hormone increases gut motility leading to hyperdefecation and difficulty absorbing nutrients from your diet,” says Dr. Skariah.
If you are struggling to cope with extreme temperatures, there might be something going on with your thyroid. “Feeling cold all of the time is noticed when thyroid hormone level is too low as your resting metabolic rate slows,” Dr. Skariah points out. The opposite occurs when you have too much of the hormone. “You will notice that you are sweating most of the time while everyone else is comfortable.”
Obviously, anxiety can be the result of so many different things. You might be surprised to learn that your thyroid is one of them. “When the thyroid gland is overactive people may experience anxiety, restlessness and irritability,” explains Dr. Skariah.
Your thyroid can even seriously impact your heart. “This is an area where the fine regulation of thyroid hormone is very apparent,” reveals Dr. Skariah. If there is too little hormone, the heart rate slows down severely. If there is too much, the heart rate speeds up and sometimes leads to unusual heart rhythms like atrial fibrillation.
An overactive thyroid can noticeably change a man’s body—as well as have a negative impact on their sex life. “When thyroid hormone levels are too high, testosterone may be converted to estradiol, which can subsequently lead to breast development, decreased libido and erectile dysfunction,” says Dr. Skariah.
There are many reasons for resting tremors. One potential cause is overactive thyroid hormone. “It can increase muscle firing, especially in the upper extremities like the hand,” says Dr. Skariah.
You’ve always been able to juggle life and work demands, but lately you’re having trouble focusing on projects and sometimes can’t get the words out eloquently in meetings. Maybe it’s just the weather, but Tanya Reznick, MD, board-certified endocrinologist of AtlantiCare Physician Group Endocrinology, Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey, points out it could be due to your underactive thyroid.
You exercise every morning and you’re faithfully bypassing the fast and comfort foods and consciously eating healthy, well-balanced meals regularly, but the scale keeps creeping up. One of the biggest indicators of an underactive thyroid is unexplained weight gain, explains Dr. Reznick.
And to live your happiest and healthiest life, don’t miss these 101 Unhealthiest Habits on the Planet.