Five Signs You Need to Have Your Thyroid Checked
Swelling of the Neck
If it suddenly looks like you have an Adam’s apple, chances are there’s a problem with your thyroid. The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the lower part of your neck, and when inflamed, it swells up and releases an excess of thyroid hormones. There are a variety of risk factors (for instance, a lack of iodine or certain medications), but an endocrinologist can help determine the root cause of an enlarged thyroid.
A High or Low Heart Rate
You may notice your heart rate change suddenly and feel a fluttering in your chest or a sensation like your heart skipped a beat. “The thyroid produces hormones that affect just about every organ system, including the heart,” says Erik Polan, DO, assistant professor and internal medicine physician at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. “High levels of the hormones (hyperthyroidism) can make the heart beat too fast, while low amounts (hypothyroidism) cause it to beat too slowly.” You may also feel lightheaded, fatigued, and even experience chest pain or pass out—things you should definitely tell your doctor about.
Pay attention to your menstrual cycle. More bleeding than usual may indicate hypothyroidism, while a lighter and less frequent period can be a symptom of hyperthyroidism. “A woman who has infertility or has suffered miscarriages may be found to have an overactive thyroid,” says Jacqueline Jonklaas, MD, professor of medicine in the Division of Endocrinology at Georgetown University. “Treating the hyperthyroidism may improve the chances of a successful pregnancy.”
Related: Signs You May Have Endometriosis
Weight Gain or Loss
The thyroid hormones we keep talking about also play an important role in our metabolism. The relationship is complex, but generally speaking, high levels of the hormones are associated with a faster metabolism and can lead to weight loss, while the opposite is true for low levels. It’s usually not a drastic weight difference, and other symptoms are almost always present.
A New Symptom
In addition to the issues mentioned above, people with hypothyroidism may also experience fatigue, swollen legs, dry skin, brittle nails, constipation, sensitivity to cold and even symptoms similar to dementia. Meanwhile, hyperthyroidism tends to go hand in hand with overactivity, excessive sweating, hair loss, diarrhea, sensitivity to heat, insomnia, panic attacks, a tremor and protrusion of the eyes. “Every patient will likely present a little differently, but in the case of any of these potential symptoms, it's a good idea to discuss thyroid testing with your physician,” says Polan.