Return To Main Guide
Thyroid Disease Information
|What Are The Symptoms of Thyroid Disease?
Thyroid disease is a term which is used to describe various different conditions which can affect the thyroid gland. Each condition produces a different set of symptoms, and those symptoms can vary in degree of severity. The longer a thyroid condition is undiagnosed or treated, the more likely it is to worsen and cause damage to your body. There are five main types of thyroid diseases, and in this article we will look at each condition individually. Also, it should be pointed out that not everyone develops symptoms in a text-book manner. For example, although hyperthyroidism is associated with weight loss, some patients (particularly the elderly) actually gain weight. For this reason, a diagnosis based on symptoms alone is never recommended. A doctor should always carry out thyroid tests, in particular the TSH blood test before making a diagnosis.
Signs Of Hypothyroidism
When Hormone Levels Are Too Low
1. A swollen thyroid which gives the appearance of an enlarged neck. This is called a goiter (picture). It is typical in patients with Hashimoto's disease, the main cause of hypothyroidism.
2. Dry, pale skin that is cool to touch, puffy and yellow in color.
3. Unexplained moderate weight gain (10-15 pounds).
4. White patches of skin where the skin pigment is lost (vitiligo).
5. Hair loss (picture).
6. Brittle nails that break easily.
7. Puffy face or legs.
8. Fatigue, feeling much more tired than normal. See, why am I so tired all the time?
9. Hoarse voice with slow speech, feeling that your tongue has become thickened.
10. Slow pulse.
The following is a list of other signs which some patients, but not all, also experience:
11. Increased sensitivity to cold.
12. Slow reflexes and weakness.
13. Sleep apnea.
15. Heavier periods than normal.
16. Trouble remembering things and decreased concentration.
17. Ringing in the ears and trouble hearing.
18. Trouble seeing at night.
20. Younger women may have difficulties becoming pregnant and often have a reduced sex drive.
21. All over body ache, this can be one of the early signs of a developing thyroid problem.
The symptoms of hypothyroidism develop slowly over many years, in fact they can be so gradual that women often put them down to other causes - primarily, aging, stress or symptoms of menopause. As the signs are so easily confused with other conditions, all women should be screened for thyroid function every 5 years after the age of 35.
An advanced case of hypothyroidism is called myxedema - fortunately the condition is very rare because when it occurs it can lead to coma and death. Signs include drop in body temperature, decreased breathing, low blood pressure and unresponsiveness. Myxedema only usually occurs in people who have not been treated for hypothyroidism, or their condition is poorly controlled. It may also be sparked by a stroke, trauma or heart failure.
Signs Of Hyperthyroidism
Hormone Levels Are Too High
Below is a list of the classic signs of hyperthyroidism, whether it is caused by Graves disease (read about the causes of thyroid disease) or another condition:
1. Unexplained weight loss, even if your appetite is the same or has increased.
2. Racing heartbeat or a pounding heart.
3. Tremor or shaky hands.
4. Increased appetite.
5. Feel warm all the time and the skin is moist.
6. Feeling anxious and nervous.
8. Periods become lighter.
9. Diarrhea or more frequent bowel movements.
10. Enlarged swelling on the neck (goiter).
11. Difficulties sleeping.
12. Eyes bulge (picture) - people may comment that you are staring at them.
13. Fatigue, muscle weakness.
14. Difficulties sleeping.
Studies show that younger people on average display about 11 of the classic symptoms of hyperthyroidism, whereas elderly people may only show 3 or 4. Although the signs may appear to be distinctive, they are not - although rapid heartbeats occur in 75 percent of hyperthyroid patients, they also occur in 26 percent of people without the condition. Similarly while 73 percent of patients prefer colder climates (because they feel warm all the time), so do 41 percent of people without hyperthyroidism.
Signs Of Thyroid Nodules
These are small bumps which appear on the thyroid gland (pictures). In most instances thyroid nodules remain small and cause no symptoms. A doctor may only discover them during a routine physical examination or you might notice them when you look in the mirror. If they increase in size however they can cause breathing and swallowing difficulties. Not all, but some patients also complain of:
1. Hyperthyroid symptoms
2. Tickle in the throat and shortness of breath.
3. Neck, jaw or ear pain.
You may have one nodule or you can develop lots of them. In 5 percent of cases, they turn out to be cancerous.
Signs Of Goiter
Not all goiters (picture) cause obvious symptoms, but when they do, it may include:
1. A large swelling at the base of the neck.
3. Hoarse voice.
4. Difficulties swallowing or breathing.
Signs Of Thyroid Cancer
According to statistics, millions of people probably live and die every year with thyroid cancer, and never know it. It isn't even listed among the top 75 causes of death in the US. Which means, of all cancers, it is probably the least deadly. The most common sign is a lump on the neck, other symptoms are quite rare. In 95 percent of cases the lump will turn out to be a benign nodule. If your doctor tells you that you have nodules, the following risk factors can make a cancer diagnosis more likely (but please remember, 95 percent are benign, so don't panic!)
1. Women are more likely to develop nodules, but they are more likely to turn cancerous in men.
2. Nodules are more likely to be cancerous in children or people aged over 70.
3. If you have lots of nodules (instead of just one), they are LESS likely to be cancer.
4. If your voice turns hoarse and you have difficulties swallowing, it could be cancer.
5. If your thyroid doesn't move easily, it’s a sign of fixation and cancer.
6. If the nodule grows rapidly, it may be cancer. If it pops up suddenly and is tender to touch, its not likely to be cancer.
You may also find these articles useful:
Read about cancer causes as well cancer symptoms in general.