As the metabolism-controlling gland, your thyroid is in charge of a lot of important bodily and hormonal functions including weight regulation and body temperature. When something is awry with your thyroid, it usually means your hormone production will be out of whack. This can translate to some common, often-ignored physical symptoms such as weight gain, fatigue, and dry skin, among others. And it’s not just in women; although thyroid disease is more common in women, thanks to the presence of estrogen, men can also be diagnosed, too.
If you’ve been ignoring these symptoms, now is time to start paying attention. Your thyroid isn’t just in charge of your metabolism; it plays a role in the function of vital organs, including your heart, brain, liver, and kidneys. But don’t just take our word for it—be sure to visit a doctor to confirm whether or not something is wrong with this important butterfly-shaped gland. “The only true way to know for sure if you have hypothyroid disease is to have your physician perform a TSH test,” explains Heather L. Hofflich, DO, endocrinologist and internist at UC San Diego Health.
Here are some of the biggest symptoms your body might be experiencing to signal a thyroid issue. In addition to visiting your doctor, be sure to check out our list of the 25 Best Foods to Eat for Your Thyroid and Metabolism.
Your Skin Is Dry
It could be the weather, or it could be a thyroid issue. Hofflich explains dry skin is a symptom of hypothyroidism, where the thyroid is not producing enough of the thyroid hormone. This can cause your metabolism to slow down and reduce sweating, which can dry out your skin. Your nails can also become dry and brittle.
You Have Heart Palpitations
When you have hyperthyroidism, wherein the thyroid produces produced too much thyroid hormone, it speeds up your metabolism and other systems in your body. One of the side effects is a fast heartbeat and heart palpitations, Hofflich explains.
You’re Gaining Weight
If you have an underactive thyroid, it could slow down your metabolism and lead to weight gain. Hofflich says this is one of the most common symptoms of hypothyroidism. If you’ve noticed weight gain along with fatigue and dry skin, be sure to visit your doctor to get tested for hypothyroidism.
You Have Anxiety
An overactive thyroid affects more than just metabolism and heartbeat; it can also impact your mood. While an overproduction of the thyroid hormone ramps up systems in the body, it can create feelings of jitteriness, nervousness, and anxiety says Marc I. Leavey, MD. In addition to visiting your doctor, be sure to avoid the 15 Foods That Make Your Depression Or Anxiety Worse.
While you may not think your bowel movements and thyroid are related, Leavey says constipation is a common symptom of hypothyroidism and is often overlooked. If you notice you’re hitting the restroom much less frequently than normal, it could be an underactive thyroid.
Your Stool Is Loose
On the flip side, an often ignored symptom of an overactive thyroid is frequent bowel movements and loose stool says Hofflich. As more production of the thyroid hormone ramps up systems in your body, your GI tract is one of them.
You’re Constantly Cold
Since your thyroid is in control of your metabolism and the thyroid hormone, it also regulates your body temperature. An underactive thyroid could result in a colder than normal body temperature. If you’re constantly chilly, it might be an indicator to get your thyroid checked.
Although weight gain is the most common symptom associated with an underactive thyroid, fatigue is another common result of hypothyroidism. On the flip side, fatigue could also be a symptom of hyperthyroidism. “Fatigue is often common as your body is functioning at a higher rate,” Hofflich explains. So if you’re tired all the time, it’s a good idea to get your thyroid tested to find out what exactly it wrong.
You’re Losing Hair
Hair loss isn’t just a sign of growing older; it could be a symptom of hyperthyroidism. Hofflich says that, like fatigue, it’s the result of your body functioning at a higher rate. To prevent your hairline from receding any further, be sure to eat the 17 Best Foods to Stop Hair Loss.
Your Heart Rate Is Slow
Just like how an overactive thyroid can speed up your heart rate and cause palpitations, a lack of the thyroid hormone can slow down functions of the body, including your heart rate. It’s a physical effect Leavey says is possible, but often overlooked.
You Keep Forgetting Things
If you find yourself constantly misplacing your keys or forgetting appointments, it might be more than just stress or lack of sleep. Your absent-mindedness could be from hypothyroidism, Hofflich says. When your body doesn’t produce enough of the thyroid hormone, that also impacts cognitive function including memory. Forgetfulness is actually one of the 10 Signs You Have An Underactive Thyroid.
You’ve Got Tremors
When your thyroid is in overdrive producing more thyroid hormone than average, that speeds up your metabolism and other functions in your body. This can reflect in physical symptoms such as tremors in your hands and muscle weakness in your thighs and arms, Hofflich explains. A form of hyperthyroidism called Graves disease may lead to tremors as well as your eyes enlarging or bulging. She says if you experience any of these symptoms to get your TSH levels checked by your doctor.
Similar to forgetfulness, less production of the thyroid hormone can slow down functions of the body including cognitive function. “The underactive thyroid can cause depression, sleepiness, and mental confusion,” Leavey says.
You’re Menstruating More
With hypothyroidism, where there is less production of the thyroid hormone, it can affect other hormones in the body too, especially in women. If you notice your periods are longer, more frequent, have a heavier flow, or you are experiencing more cramps than normal, it can be a sign of an underactive thyroid.
You’re Menstruating Less
On the flip side, skipped periods, menstrual cycles that are far apart extremely light can all be signs of hyperthyroidism. Any major changes to your menstrual cycle could be a sign of a thyroid issue, so you should see your doctor. “One has to know one’s body, and the normal ebb and flow of function,” Leavey says. “If things are changing, get it checked out.” Your doctor can help you rule out a thyroid disorder with a TSH test. And if you do have a thyroid disorder, don’t try to treat it yourself; curing your thyroid with iodine is one of the 10 Myths About Your Thyroid.