Recognizing Signs You May Have a Thyroid Issue

ENT specialist evaluating patient's thyroid.

“Perhaps it’s your thyroid.” You’ve heard this statement thrown around before. Everyone seems to suggest that you might have some sort of thyroid issue, yet you’ve never taken the time to truly contemplate what that could entail. In fact, you’re not even familiar with what a thyroid looks like!

As it turns out, thyroid conditions are quite prevalent. Researchers estimate that approximately 200 million individuals across the world grapple with thyroid-related issues.

So… perhaps your thyroid is indeed the culprit!

Understanding your thyroid

To gain insight into what triggers complications in the thyroid gland, it’s beneficial to delve into its function and normal behavior.

Your thyroid is a gland shaped like a butterfly nestled inside the neck, just below the larynx. Normally, you wouldn’t even be aware of its presence—it’s not something you can detect or feel (at least not when it’s functioning properly).

The thyroid plays a crucial role in breaking down iodine from your diet, producing essential hormones that regulate bodily functions and metabolism.

Thyroid problems typically manifest in two ways: excessive activity or insufficient activity—both of which result in noticeable symptoms.

What is hyperthyroidism?

An overactive thyroid leads to a condition known as hyperthyroidism. In such cases, the thyroid tends to generate an excess of hormones responsible for regulating metabolism.

This accelerated metabolic rate may seem advantageous at first glance, but it can trigger various issues such as:

  • Excessive sweating
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Irritability
  • Enlargement of the thyroid gland

Hyperthyroidism can stem from a range of factors, including Graves’ Disease or thyroiditis. It may have a genetic component or be linked to hereditary factors. Additionally, it tends to affect women more frequently and those with chronic illnesses.

Treatment for overactive thyroid usually includes thionamides, beta-blockers, or radioactive iodine treatment.

What is hypothyroidism?

Conversely, an underactive thyroid is termed hypothyroidism, resulting in a sluggish metabolism.

Symptoms may include:

  • Weight gain (or persistent weight despite exercise and dietary efforts)
  • Brittle nails
  • Hair loss
  • Fatigue
  • Lethargy

Causes of hypothyroidism could include congenital conditions, iodine deficiency, pituitary disorders, or pregnancy.

Treatment for hypothyroidism usually involves synthetic hormones, which often lead to symptom alleviation upon commencement.

How to recognize thyroid disorders

Diagnosing thyroid conditions can be challenging as they sometimes mimic other ailments. So how can you discern if your thyroid is the culprit? Watch out for these six symptoms and consider scheduling an appointment with an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) specialist if you experience them:

  • Brain Fog: When your body isn’t creating or using energy efficiently, your nervous system slows down. You can feel fatigued and sluggish–even when it comes to your thinking. Most doctors call this “brain fog,” and it can be a significant symptom of thyroid issues.
  • Weight changes: Both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism can cause changes to your weight. When your thyroid is overactive, you’ll lose weight unexpectedly. When your thyroid is under-active, that weight will stick around. Weight changes may not be inherently good or bad–but an inability to influence your weight can be alarming.
  • Heart rate irregularities: Metabolic shifts associated with thyroid function can impact your heart rate. Sudden fluctuations in heart rate may occur when your thyroid accelerates or decelerates metabolism.
  • Sleep issues: Hyperthyroid issues can make it hard to fall asleep at night–you’ve got too much energy to lay still! Hypothyroidism can make it hard to get out of bed in the morning–you don’t have the energy to wake up! If you’re experiencing either of these, it could be due to thyroid issues.
  • Trouble swallowing: There’s only so much room in your neck! A hyperactive thyroid has a tendency to grow. And if your thyroid is growing, it’s likely to cause a little bit of trouble swallowing. That’s because your thyroid may be pressing in on or cramping your esophagus.
  • Neck enlargement: In some instances, an enlarged thyroid may manifest as a visible lump on the neck, known as a goiter, signaling thyroid enlargement.

Thyroid conditions are manageable

Optimal thyroid function is crucial for overall well-being. If issues arise, an ENT specialist can help identify and address them. Most thyroid conditions are manageable and treatable, offering relief from symptoms.

Find a provider in your area to schedule an appointment by searching providers near you.

Want more information?

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