Lately, have you been feeling lethargic and irritable all throughout the day even after sleeping for 7-8 hours at night? Or, despite switching to a healthy and balanced diet, and exercising regularly, you are not able to lose weight? Or, have you experienced both and presumed that the changes in your lifestyle have had adverse effect on your mood? Before drawing any further conclusions, pause for a moment. It could be a malfunctioning thyroid behind these symptoms.
Thyroid is the endocrine gland in our neck region that resembles a butterfly. It secretes hormones that help maintain our metabolism, improves cardiovascular functions, aids brain development during fetal stage and adolescence, and sexual behaviour. An overactive thyroid secretes excess hormones which results in hyperthyroidism, associated with Graves’ disease, goitre and adenoma, with symptoms like weight loss, insomnia, increased appetite and mental health issues. Hypothyroidism is more common and the typical symptoms are body weight issues, sluggishness, heavy menstrual bleeding and mood swings.
15 early signs of thyroid malfunction are:
- Fatigue – Despite adequate sleep, people suffering from hypothyroidism experience excessive fatigue and lethargy most of the time. You may be having a hard time getting up in the mornings and going about completing your chores. Pushing yourself out of the door to reach work on time, meetings, deadlines and even after-office get-togethers may be leaving you exhausted and energy-starved. Recreational activities are not making you feel charged up and you may be avoiding the outdoors, and instead lying on the couch or in bed.
- Weight gain/loss – Despite making smart choices in terms of food habits and regularly exercising, you may be feeling depressed as you are not losing weight. Or you may be losing weight drastically without having made any effort. The first situation is the most common symptom of hypothyroidism and the second of hyperthyroidism. Both these are generally seen to be the first cause of concern that drives people to seeking medical help.
- Mood swings – Apart from feeling physically sluggish, you may have slowed down mentally. Or you may be suffering from over anxiety and nervousness. Friends and family members may have noticed that you tend to snap at every little thing and not really being your usual self. Feeling irritable or feeling low are part of mood swings that a person suffering from hypothyroidism experiences. In contrast, a person suffering from hyperthyroidism will be more excitable. It is not that you can control the emotional upheavals, or keep yourself from feeling depressed or anxious most of the time.
- Pre-menstrual symptoms and irregular periods – In many women, the first signs of a malfunctioning thyroid are irregular cycles, pre-menstrual symptoms like severe mood swings, stomach cramps and low back ache, and heavy menstrual bleeding.
- Body ache – Muscle pain, commonly, aches in the calf muscles, thighs, arms and back are also symptoms of hypothyroidism. You may also be feeling pain or tenderness, or noticing swelling in your joints regularly and not being able to arrive at a logical reason as to what may be causing them.
- Low body temperature – We all have office colleagues or family members who are always feeling cold. They are the ones who may want to switch off the AC even when the rest of the people are complaining of heat. Or they may be complaining of cold hands and feet without any apparent reason.
- Dry skin – Have you been slathering moisturizing lotions on your skin and yet it feels parched and dry every few hours? The lotion may provide temporary relief but in case there is an internal cause behind this, your skin will not turn supple and smooth until your thyroid gland is stimulated to function normally.
- Brittle nails – Look at your hands carefully. Does the skin around the cuticles appear jagged and coarse, or are there vertical white ridges on your nails? Hypothyroidism also leads to brittle nails that result in nails chipping and breaking.