Hypothyroidism is a much more common metabolic problem than many people realize. The secretions of the thyroid gland play critical roles in supporting daily biological functions. This malfunctioning of one of the body’s most important glands can lead to severe problems that drastically lower the quality of life.
The Thyroid Gland
The symptoms of hypothyroidism are devastating because the thyroid gland is so important for human life. This endocrine gland is found wrapped around the trachea in the neck. All day, it is supposed to produce thyroxine and triiodothyronine. These are hormones which directly stimulate the metabolism and essentially control how much energy a person will have. It also produces the hormone calcitonin, which helps remove excess calcium from the blood stream and store it is the bones.
Hypothyroidism is a condition which results in the hyposecretion of thyroid hormones. There can be many underlying causes (such as an improper immune response as in the case of Hashimoto’s disease) but the resulting effect on sufferers tend to be the same. When these hormones are produced in small or almost non-existent quantities, subjects have a hard time maintaining energy levels. In extreme cases, people with almost no thyroid function will find it difficult simply to get out of bed in the morning.
The Many Symptoms of Hypothyroidism
Detecting hypothyroidism symptoms is not just the job of a doctor. The signs of this condition are not always obvious but the effects on individuals can subtract significantly from their quality of life. Many people have endured months or even years of hypothyroidism and suffered the consequences that it has on their work and relationships needlessly. Understanding the symptoms of this malady can help people interact effectively with their doctors and receive prompt attention for their conditions.
There are two categories of symptoms of hypothyroidism. Early symptoms differ from late symptoms both in severity and in their specific effects. Early symptoms include the following:
A persistent feeling of being tired may not be due to your heavy work schedule or your lack of exercise. Instead, it may be a sign that your thyroid gland is not producing enough of the hormones that charge your metabolism and control how many and how often energy supplies are broken down and consumed by your cells. You cannot exercise or diet your way out of this condition, though those methods can reduce the severity of the symptoms. Without thyroid function, you simply will not have energy.
The depression is caused physically by the condition and not simply due to mental disturbance from the diagnosis. People generally experience severe depression long before they receive a diagnosis. This symptom usually recedes in severity or disappear altogether once synthetic hormones are supplied and are supplemented by lifestyle changes.
Since the thyroid hormones control metabolism, their absence leads to inevitable weight gain as less energy is used and incoming supplies of carbohydrates and fats are increasingly stored rather than used to support body functions. Along with the weight gain can come a whole host of other symptoms that are produced secondarily by the obesity.
The slowing of the metabolism inevitably leads to a slowing of all body functions. This is seen in the sluggish peristalsis of people with symptoms of hypothyroidism. A danger in avoiding a diagnosis for hypothyroidism is possible misuse of laxatives to solve the problem. Instead, proper administration of synthetic hormones should return bowel function to normal.
The body perceives a lack of energy available, even though the increasingly heavy subject suffering from hypothyroidism has plenty of energy stored. Like all other bodily functions, the movement of eggs into the uterus suffers as does their nourishment.
Like most of the other organs in the body, the heart will also slow down. This is a distressing syndrome but it should also be an easy one to detect for non-medical professionals. When the heart rate goes below 60 beats per minute, this is technically bradycardia. This only applies to heart rates measured during the day. It is normal for relaxed or sleeping persons to see heart rates fall below 60 at times.
The inability of organs to process during periods of low thyroid hormone production also leads to an increase in the levels of cholesterol in the blood. Cholesterol is meant to travel back and forth through the body and be consumed in various activities or in the repair and building of various tissues. When these processes slow down, cholesterol backs up in the blood stream.
Sensitivity to Cold
Circulation is key to maintaining the right body temperature. However, circulation falters when there is not enough thyroid hormone present to stimulate this process. As a result, people suffering from hypothyroidism symptoms will frequently feel cold even when others around them feel quite warm. Their bodies are not using enough energy to circulate blood to the surface of the skin and to their extremities.
Joint and muscle pain may be a result of the inevitable ebb in muscle repair that would happen after the metabolism slow down. Subjects suffering from other symptoms of hypothyroidism may believe at first that these pains are due to exercise or sleeping the wrong way.
The nails grow outward from the base of the lunula at the place where the fingernail meets the skin. With the metabolism skewed as badly as it is when hypothyroidism is present, the creation of these nails suffers. They are made from keratin, a protein that must be manufactured by the body.
Hair loss is related to the problems that people with hypothyroidism have with their nails. Hair is created using the same proteins in different arrangements. Nevertheless, when there are not enough of these proteins, hair cannot be created.
Just as circulation to the surface of the skin suffers, so does the normal action of the skin to protect itself with oils produced by glands and ejected onto the surface of the skin.
These symptoms are those that occur more during the earlier stages of the disease, although they can also happen during later stages as well. In the next part of this feature on the symptoms of hypothyroidism, we will take a deeper look into the symptoms that occur during the later stages as well as a few treatment options.