The thyroid plays an important role in regulating your body’s metabolism. But if thyroid function becomes too active, or not active enough, it can cause a range of unwanted symptoms, from excessive sweating or weight fluctuation to insomnia, depression or brain fog.
While the symptoms associated with an under or overactive thyroid can also be attributed to other health issues, if you notice that you’re experiencing a number of these conditions, it could be worth taking a test to find whether you thyroid could be the cause.
What is the thyroid?
The thyroid is a gland found in the front of your neck. Made up of two lobes which lie either side of the windpipe, the gland is roughly the size of a plum cut into two halves and is joined in the middle by a bridge of tissue called the isthmus.
What does the thyroid do?
The thyroid’s function is to produce two hormones, thyroxine (T4) and Triiodothyronine (T3). These hormones are released into the blood and help to regulate cell function.
Thyroxine (T4) contains four atoms of iodine while Triiodothyronine (T3) contains three. In the body the T4 is converted to T3. It is the T3, both from the T4 and released as T3 directly from the thyroid gland, which influences the activity of all the cells and tissues of your body.
What are thyroid hormones needed for?
The hormones released by your thyroid influence the metabolism of your body cells, regulating the speed with which those cells work.
If too much of the thyroid hormones are released, the body cells work faster than normal. This is called hyperthyroidism. The increased activity in your cells can cause a range of symptoms such as increased heart rate or more frequent bowel movements.
Too little production of the thyroid hormones is known as hypothyroidism. In this case, the cells and organs of your body slow down. This can cause a slower heart rate or sluggish digestion.
What can happen if you have a problem with your thyroid?
Thyroid disorders are very common. Although they tend to mainly occur in women, men, children and babies can also be affected. Around one in 20 people has a thyroid disorder and this can be temporary or permanent.
- Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) - not enough thyroxine is produced for the body’s needs. This is the most common disorder.
- Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) - too much thyroxine is produced for the body’s needs.
What are the common symptoms of hyperthyroidism?
While symptoms can vary, some of the more common conditions associated with hyperthyroidism include:
- Clammy skin
- Feeling warm and sweating excessively
- Feeling hyperactive
- Fertility problems Insomnia
- Irregular bowel movements
- Raised libido
- Rapid heartbeat
- Shortness/loss of breath
- Thinning hair
- Weight loss with increased appetite
What are the common symptoms of Hypothyroidism?
While symptoms can vary, some of the more common conditions associated with hypothyroidism include:
- Brain fog
- Dry hair and skin Fatigue
- Feeling cold constantly
- Fertility problems
- Hair loss
- Issues with Breathlessness
- Loss of libido
- Low basal temperature
- Mood swings
- Raised cholesterol
- Weight gain and/or difficulty losing weight
Can thyroid disorders be treated?
Thyroid disorders are common and, fortunately, the disorder and many of the symptoms can be treated. Most Thyroid Disorders are managed with daily medication. Other treatments are also available for disorders that can’t be managed with medication.
Getting your thyroid tested
If you’re concerned about your thyroid function you may want to consider getting tested for confirmation. Armed with this information, you can make more informed decisions in order to optimise your health and wellbeing.