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Signs Your Thyroid is Malfunctioning According to Doctors

Here are signs of hypothyroidism you should never ignore.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Hypothyroidism is a condition where the underactive thyroid isn't creating and releasing enough thyroid hormones, leading to a number of concerning health conditions. "Your thyroid, a tiny, butterfly-shaped gland located in front of your windpipe (trachea) and below your voice box (larynx) can have a profound impact on your health and well-being," says Jeffrey Garber, MD, FACP, MACE. "Throughout life, your thyroid is constantly producing hormones that influence your metabolism. These hormones affect your mood, energy, body temperature, weight, heart, and more. Your thyroid produces two kinds of thyroid hormones: T4, or thyroxine, and T3, or triiodothyronine. These hormones influence every cell, tissue, and organ in your body, from your muscles, bones, and skin to your digestive tract, brain, and heart, by controlling how fast and efficiently cells convert nutrients into energy — a chemical activity known as metabolism." Here are five sure signs your thyroid is malfunctioning, according to experts. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Weight Gain

Woman sitting at the gym with pink pilates ball.

Weight gain is a common symptom of hypothyroidism, according to experts. "Hypothyroidism from any cause results in a decrease in energy metabolism, or the basal metabolic rate," says endocrinologist Eve D. Bloomgarden, MD. "Patients often experience a modest amount of weight gain prior to diagnosis because of this metabolic slowing. Importantly, once the hypothyroidism is treated with thyroid hormone, the basal metabolic rate returns to normal, and the weight also returns to normal. If it does not, I work with my patients to address other causes of weight gain, in particular focusing on getting adequate sleep, making healthy food choices and exercising."


Cold Intolerance

Portrait of sick young man in blue jacket put on a hood, having a cold, feeling unwell, coughing, wearing medical face mask, outdoors

Can't handle the cold? It might be your thyroid. "The thyroid gland has been called a thermostat for our body, as it helps to regulate heat," says Izabella Wentz, PharmD, FASCP. "People with hypothyroidism are prone to having low body temperatures and cold intolerance. It's one of those symptoms that we often brush off, don't notice and don't take seriously but can be very distressful when we do not take the proper precautions. People with hypothyroidism are also at greater risk of suffering from hypothermia, a potentially life-threatening condition when exposed to cold temperatures."


Hair Loss

young man in white t-shirt and jeans looking in mirror at thinning hair
Shutterstock / Maridav

Thyroid dysfunction can cause hair loss, experts explain. "Any changes in thyroid function could potentially cause hair loss, and sometimes it could be prolonged and it could be three months later, even when the levels are normal that you can start seeing improvement in the hair issue," says endocrinologist Mary Vouyiouklis Kellis, MD. "But sometimes it's not just the thyroid that can be affecting the hair loss, it can be other things, so looking to make sure there's no iron deficiency would be one other thing to consider. And sometimes if you're in menopause, in low estrogen state, that hair follicle starts to thin, so things start to appear, like you have thinning or thin hair, and that could also be a reason. 


Is It Thyroid Malfunction or Menopause?

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"Often we see people, ages 40 to 60, women who are getting diagnosed with thyroid conditions, and sometimes a lot of these symptoms can be menopause symptoms," says Dr. Kellis. "It can be sort of poo pooed that, 'Hey, you know, whatever, you're going through menopause, leave me alone.' But that's actually not the case, because sometimes while it is menopause, you can also have a thyroid condition that needs to be evaluated. So, if you're going through the change and you're having irregular periods, it is important to have your thyroid evaluated, just in case that that could be the cause that your periods are irregular. Maybe your body's not ready for menopause, but you're having these irregular periods, because there's thyroid dysfunction.


Be Careful With Exercise

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People with hypothyroidism need to be careful about how they exercise, doctors warn. "Excessive exercise can cause a person to go into heart failure if their thyroid hormones are not under control," says endocrinologist Christian Nasr, MD. "I advise my patients with hypothyroidism not to exercise for a few weeks until their condition is well controlled with medications."

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more about Ferozan