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What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism?

Dr. Randolph P. Martin, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Symptoms of hypothyroidism can include feeling fatigue and weak, dry, pale skin, constipation and becoming bald. Watch this video to learn more from Dr. Randy P. Martin about the symptoms of hypothyroidism.

Hypothyroidism is caused by an underactive thyroid. The thyroid has been found to be more common in women than in men, especially those over 50. Common symptoms associated with the condition are fatigue, lack of energy or drive, daytime sleepiness, weight gain, water retention or bloating, thinning hair, dry skin, constipation and difficulty concentrating.

Dr. Michael T. Murray, ND
Naturopathic Medicine Specialist

The common signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism include:

  • Depression
  • Difficulty in losing weight
  • Dry skin
  • Headaches
  • Lethargy or fatigue
  • Heavy or irregular periods
  • Recurrent infections
  • Sensitivity to cold
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The symptoms of hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) can differ from person to person. In some women, the onset is so gradual that it's hardly noticeable; in others, symptoms come on abruptly over the course of a few weeks or months. In general, the lower thyroid hormone levels are, the more pronounced and severe the following symptoms will be:

  • Fatigue. Low thyroid function can result in less energy.
  • Cold intolerance. Slowed-down cells burn less energy, so the body produces less heat. You may feel chilly even when others around you are comfortable.
  • Appetite loss, weight gain. Although a seeming contradiction, the lower your energy needs, the fewer calories you need, so your appetite declines. Yet, you may gain a few pounds because your body converts fewer calories into energy, leaving more to be stored as fat.
  • Cardiovascular effects. Low levels of thyroid hormone can lead to high blood pressure as well as elevated levels of total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. The heart's pumping ability may fall, reducing blood flow to the skin, kidneys, brain, and other vital tissues, and increasing the risk of heart failure, especially in older women.
  • Mental effects. Hypothyroidism and depression share many of the same symptoms, including difficulty concentrating, memory problems, and loss of interest in things that are normally important to you. They call for different treatments, so proper diagnosis is important.
  • Other signs and symptoms. Hypothyroidism can act as a dimmer switch on nearly every bodily function. Digestive processes become sluggish, causing constipation. Speech and movement may slow. Muscle aches and pain around the joints, including carpal tunnel syndrome, are common. Skin, hair, and nails may become dry and thin.
  • If you have any of these symptoms, see your clinician for a physical exam. You'll be checked for physical signs of hypothyroidism, and you may have blood tests for levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) as well as the thyroid hormone thyroxine (T4).
Boston Women's Health Book Collective
Administration Specialist

You are more likely to develop thyroid problems as you age. Women are more likely than men to have thyroid problems. The thyroid gland is located at the base of your neck in front of your trachea (or windpipe). It has two sides and is shaped like a butterfly. It regulates metabolism and can be involved in certain forms of reversible dementia.

If there is not enough thyroid hormone in the bloodstream, the body's metabolism slows down. This is called hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). Symptoms of hypothyroidism include weight gain, hair thinning, weakness and mental confusion. In most cases, hypothyroidism is treated with medication that contains the thyroid hormone.

If there is too much thyroid hormone, your metabolism speeds up. This is called hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid). Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include tachycardia (fast and sometimes irregular heartbeat), protruding eyes and other eye changes, nervousness and anxiety. Treatment for hyperthyroidism lowers the amount of thyroid hormone and relieves your symptoms.

The symptoms of thyroid problems are sometimes mistaken as signs of the menopause transition. Also, the changing estrogen level due to menopause or hormone treatment can complicate the measurement of thyroid hormone level, making the diagnosis of thyroid problems more difficult. If you have symptoms of the thyroid disease, learn more about the condition from your health care provider and other sources, and consider getting tested.

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Symptoms for hypothyroidism vary among individuals. Common symptoms that appear early in the disease include fatigue, weight gain, cold sensitivity, brittle and thin hair and nails, pain in the joints and muscles, constipation, dry skin, heavy menstrual periods in women, fertility problems, depression and a slower heartbeat.

If the disease has progressed or gone untreated for some time, additional symptoms that may appear include puffiness, especially of the face, feet, and hands; thick skin; thinning eyebrows; slow speech; a hoarse voice; and diminished ability to taste and smell.

Those with Hashimoto's disease (an autoimmune disease that causes hypothyroidism) are inclined to have goiter (an enlarged thyroid gland that makes the base of the throat swell) and a full feeling in the throat.

An underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) can have many unwanted symptoms. But there are many people who may have this condition and don't know it. The symptoms of hypothyroidism include fatigue, dry skin, constipation, thinning of the hair and nails, symptoms of depression and decreased ability to be motivated. It's estimated that about 10 percent of women today in the United States have hypothyroidism. If you have these symptoms, see your doctor. A simple lab test can confirm an underactive thyroid.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism may include fatigue, depression, daytime sleepiness, cold intolerance, weight gain, water retention, thinning hair, dry skin, constipation, and difficulty concentrating. Hypothyroidism can range from mild forms that are asymptomatic, and found only via blood tests, to severe hypothyroidism, that is associated with significant symptoms along with abnormal lab results.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.