Women are 7 times more at risk of developing thyroid problems, and these problems can cause very significant symptoms that need medication and management for normal everyday functioning. There are many reasons why thyroid problems occur – radiation, consumption of certain foods, certain nutritional deficiencies such as iodine, genetic predisposition, being over 60, childbirth, conditions such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, certain surgical treatments, and so on.
The thyroid is a butterfly shaped organ at the base of the throat and is rather like the thermostat of the body and is in charge of several metabolic functions. An overactive thyroid that produces too many of the thyroid hormones causes symptoms of hyperthyroidism and an underactive thyroid that doesn’t produce enough of these hormones causes symptoms of hypothyroidism.
Common symptoms of hyperthyroidism or overactive thyroid
1. There could be unexplained weight loss as the body’s metabolism is impacted by the thyroid hormone production. A person may find that they are eating as much or even much more than usual but that they are still losing weight.
2. Intolerance to heat, excessive sweating (even in cool weather) could be experienced by those with hyperthyroidism.
3. Irritability and hyper activity could be symptoms. But equally a person may feel tired and drained without any seeming reason.
4. A certain type of bulging of the eyes is also common and those with hyperthyroid often have that wide-eyed, staring expression.
5. Palpitations or irregular heart beat could also be noted.
Over time, hyperthyroidism could lead to osteoporosis, if left untreated. In the elderly, some of the above classic hyperthyroid symptoms may not be seen.
Common symptoms of hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid
1. Feeling tired and weak may be noted. A person may also have muscle aches and pains and cramps and may also have poor muscle tone.
2. A person may have rapid thoughts, anxiety, depression, and so on.
3. Woman with hypothyroidism could have fertility problems and irregular monthly periods.
4. There could be lowered tolerance to cold and lessening of sweating.
5. Water retention and weight gain are also commonly seen.
6. Changes in the skin, nails and hair too may be noted – skin may dry out and appear coarser and paler and there could also be some amount of itching. Hair may become dryer and coarser, whereas the nails may become brittle and thin.