Don't let your thyroid ruin your life – here are the signs it's playing up

Before my thyroid issue was diagnosed, I honestly thought I was going mad, or dying – or both. Fortunately, my doctor took one look at my thin frame, shaking hands and bulging eyes and recognised what was happening.

As soon as I took the thyroid stimulating hormones I was prescribed, the madness stopped and, before long, I was myself again.

Robyn Koumourou is a director of Thyroid Australia. She says, “In Australia, in particular, the average person knows little about thyroid disorders and their detrimental effects upon health. Moreover, it has been difficult for some patients to find a doctor who is willing to test thoroughly, to make a diagnosis, and then explain their condition clearly.”

The trouble with thyroid conditions is that there is such a huge variations in symptoms and many of these are easily attributable to other health problems, stress or mental health problems. Your thyroid, which is a butterfly shaped gland in your next, produces hormones that regulate your metabolism and control just about every organ in your body. If it is producing too much, you have hyperthyroidism; too little is called hypothyrodism.

Symptoms of hyperthyroidism

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  • Palpitations, fast pulse and irregular heartbeat
  • Trembling and twitches
  • Heat intolerance
  • Hot flushes and increased sweating
  • Increased appetite (or loss of appetite)
  • Weight loss (especially if eating well)
  • Diarrhoea
  • Anxiety, nervousness and/or panic attacks
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Thin, moist skin
  • Soft, thinning hair
  • Shortness of breath
  • Muscle weakness
  • Insomnia
  • Enlarged thyroid gland
  • Eye complaints (especially gritty or bulging eyes)
  • Fatigue, exhaustion and lack of energy
  • Menstrual cycle disturbances (intermittent and light)
  • Infertility
  • Depression and mood swings

And less commonly:

  • Bowel disorders
  • Brittle nails
  • Chest pain
  • Cramps
  • Decreased libido
  • Easy bruising
  • Hair loss
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Sore throat
  • Swelling of legs

Symptoms of hypothyroidism

  • Weight gain
  • Chronic constipation
  • Feeling cold (especially hands and feet) even on warm days
  • Low basal temperature
  • Fatigue, exhaustion and low energy (even after 12 hours sleep)
  • Slow reflexes
  • Slow, weak pulse
  • Slowness of thought processes (brain fog)
  • Indecisiveness
  • Poor memory and concentration
  • Sluggishness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Pain and stiffness in muscles or joints
  • Deepening, hoarse voice
  • Depression, mood swings and severe PMS
  • Thick, dry, coarse skin
  • Creviced, cracking skin on heels, elbows and knee caps
  • Enlarged thyroid gland
  • Lump in throat (hard to swallow)
  • High cholesterol
  • Menstrual cycle irregularities (prolonged and heavy)
  • Infertility
  • Numbness and tingling (especially in hands and face)
  • Fluid retention (swelling of face and feet)
  • Brittle hair and nails
  • Hair loss
  • Shortness of breath on exertion
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And less commonly

  • Allergies
  • Back pain
  • Blood pressure problems
  • Breast tenderness
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Chest pain
  • Digestive disturbances
  • Dizziness
  • Dry eyes and mouth
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Irritability
  • Pale skin
  • Palpitations
  • Reduced libido
  • Skin rashes
  • Sore throat
  • Stiff neck and shoulders
  • Thinning eye brows
  • Visual disturbances

If you are concerned, ask your doctor to examine your neck and order a thyroid test. I spent far too long thinking there was something terribly wrong with me, when the solution turned out to be quiet simple to fix. Don’t suffer in silence; see your doctor if you feel there is something wrong.

Have you experienced an issue with your thyroid? How did you determine what was going on?