Signs that you may need to get your thyroid checked
Shaped like a butterfly at the base of your neck, the 5 centimetres long thyroid gland packs a powerful punch.
The gland produces the thyroid hormone, carried throughout the body via the bloodstream. The hormone has a starring role in regulating metabolic processes. Body cells convert nutrients to energy – a major controlling factor in the heart rate, brain function, and body temperature.
Low thyroid hormone levels mean that the body processes are slow – fatigue, light-headedness, cold hands, dry skin, and the dreaded weight gain become a reality. The thyroid isn’t just about metabolism and regulating weight.
What does it do?
The tiny gland is involved in strength – muscle rebuilding, brain health, heart health, skin-nail-hair health, mental health, fertility, eyesight and many more functions in the endocrine system. Thyroid problems usually take the form of the underactive thyroid gland, hypothyroidism, or overactive thyroid, which is hyperthyroidism.
Everything slows down from slow energy use and expenditure to slow tissue repair and tissue growth. You feel tired and cold all the time and overwhelmingly sad, which often leads to burnout when under pressure at work. Then there are regular rounds of colds and flu, which no amount of expensive vitamins and minerals will correct.
For young people who stay over-weight with chronic illnesses, they feel old before their time. It is a time of deep depression for more senior people about their rapid decline after turning 60.
These illnesses indicate that it is time for a thyroid hormonal imbalance test:
- Disturbed sleep patterns: waking up at 2 am every morning, lying awake, and only falling asleep by 5 am when waking up for work. Or sleep being disturbed by vivid dreams.
- Periods may be irregular: It may disappear altogether or flow heavily when it does come. It may be painful and accompanied by bloating and inflammation.
- Dramatic spikes in blood pressure and heart rate, which plummets or skyrockets. Blood sugar spikes can cause you to pass out. And unexplained high cholesterol without other accompanying symptoms such as high blood pressure, diabetes or weight gain.
But there are other concerns too.
- Changes in bowel movement: a normal bowel function suddenly turns to constipation because the stool passes too slowly out the intestines.
- Joint and muscle pain: The joints become inflamed and hurt for no apparent reason, and the muscles cramp up in the legs and toes, especially at night when the person is lying down to sleep.
- Cardiopulmonary failure: Low thyroid hormone levels cause weak heart muscle contractions and reduce blood volume, leading to heart failure because the heart struggles to pump the blood effectively. This leads to a general lack of energy and a slowing down of functions like walking. Eventually, fluid gathers in the legs and the lungs, leading to shortness of breath and oedema – swollen legs and belly. Kidney function may be affected as well as every bodily function slows down.
- Psychiatric conditions; Young and old may have clinical depression and are generally anxious. Paired with depression, some older people may develop psychosis with delusions and hallucinations. While many others are misdiagnosed with dementia.
The thyroid may go in the other direction and produce too many hormones, which sends the body dangerously into overdrive. Some of the symptoms are; accelerated appetite, weight loss even with a considerable appetite, bulging eyes, anxiety, diarrhoea, rapid heart rate and a feverish mind and speech. All of these symptoms are damaging and destructive, says Endocrine web.
It is important to get tested!
Trust your instincts, especially when they are about your general health and wellbeing.
Before the neurological or cardiovascular system falls into complete disrepair, get checked. You have to live on expensive medication for the rest of your life if you take too long. Or mental health conditions cripple your capacity to function well in society.
The American College of Endocrinology advises taking the test and knowing that your thyroid function is normal. If it isn’t, you could begin treatment sooner and get your life back on track with perfectly safe tried and tested treatment around for many years.
Get professional advice
Conditions that surround the thyroid need confirmation from a medical professional.
Your doctor will most likely do a TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) test, a simple blood test that measures whether your thyroid gland functions typically or not, Community Care explains.
Your physician can also do a thyroid scan using a small amount of radioactive tracer to see how your thyroid is working. Another option is a radioactive iodine uptake test (RAIU) test to see if it’s working as it should, Web MD continues. You’ll take a minimal dose of radioactive iodine by mouth for this test. A sensor will find out how much iodine your thyroid takes in. It will exit the body through your urine.
How do I know if the doctor I need is on the Network?
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Finding your nearest GP is as easy as going to Affinity Health’s website. You have to click on the Find a Doctor tab.
Affinity Health members can contact us on 0861 11 00 33 to consult with an Affinity Health primary healthcare consultant.