If you’re like most people in Goodyear, you’ve heard of the thyroid and might even know somebody with a disorder, but the sheer number and variety of possible symptoms associated with thyroid disease will probably surprise you. It surprises us — and we’re the experts!
Getting Familiar with the Thyroid Gland
Your thyroid gland is a tiny organ that sits in the back of your throat. It looks a bit like a butterfly. Despite its size, the thyroid plays a critical role in pretty much everything your body does. It is responsible for producing a hormone that controls metabolism, a process involving the conversion of food into energy. All living organisms need a functioning metabolism in order to thrive.
Thyroid disease can lead to a wide range of health complications when hormone production is affected. Some conditions cause too little thyroid hormone to be produced; this causes a slowdown in metabolism that can result in symptoms such as weight gain, fatigue and depression. Disorders that lead to excessive thyroid hormone have the opposite effect; they may cause weight loss, increased heartrate, tremors and more.
Some thyroid diseases have nothing to do with hormone production. Nodules – lumps that form on the thyroid gland – are rare serious, but if they become too large, they can push up against the windpipe, causing shortness of breath. When the thyroid gland grows too large itself it is termed a goiter; this can also lead to trouble breathing and swallowing. Thyroid cancers, though usually benign, can also cause symptoms.
Symptoms of Thyroid Disease
There are many possible symptoms of thyroid disease, depending on the exact problem. Not everybody with thyroid disease experiences all of the following, but these are some of the more common symptoms that just might surprise you:
- Tightness in the throat. A swollen thyroid gland can cause pain and tightness in the throat. Patients with thyroiditis and goiter often experience throat constriction.
- Loss of hair. When your body is producing too little thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism) or too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism) you may develop hair loss. It’s usually spread evenly across the scalp. Certain thyroid drugs can also cause hair loss.
- Stress and anxiety. A fast metabolism speeds up your heart rate; this can cause high blood pressure, heart palpitations, insomnia and a reduction in appetite, indications of stress and anxiety. These may even cause panic attacks.
- Tiredness. A slower metabolism can cause tiredness and fatigue. When you don’t get enough thyroid hormone, your energy levels will wane, and even simple activities may feel like too much.
- Frozen shoulder. Pain and stiffness in the shoulder may be caused by adhesive capsulitis, of in layman’s terms, “frozen shoulder.” It is often a complication from an endocrine condition.
- Brain fog. Cognitive dysfunction isn’t an unusual side effect of too little thyroid hormone. Usually referred to as “brain fog,” it causes a reduction in mental alertness that can lead to difficulty concentrating and lapses in memory.
- Stubborn cough. Thyroid nodules can cause several different problems if they grow too big; these include a cough that refuses to go away, sore throat and trouble swallowing.
- Flushing in the face. A redness, or flushing, in the face (and sometimes the palms) can occur when there’s increased blood flow from hyperthyroidism. At the opposite end, people with hypothyroidism may actually look pale.
- Cardiovascular problems. The heart will be directly affected by both too much and too little thyroid hormone. A faster metabolism increases the risk for chest pain, angina and atrial fibrillation, while a slower metabolism can raise your blood pressure and cholesterol.
- Troublesome skin. Skin is often pale, dry and cool to the touch for people with hypothyroidism. It may be swollen or puffy and appear darkly colored in the creases. Moist, warm skin; flushing in the face and palms and thinning skin are all associated with hyperthyroidism.
As impressive as that list was, it’s not even close to complete. People with thyroid disease in Goodyear might experience hoarseness, mood swings, constipation, infertility, improper body temperature regulation, weak muscles, headache, vertigo, pain and pressure in the eyes, peripheral neuropathy, depression and wounds that take a long time to heal.
If you’ve got additional questions about thyroid disease or would like to know more about its symptoms, reach out to your Goodyear ENT for more information.