The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located in your neck. This gland has a significant influence over most of the metabolic processes in your body and plays a role in how your cells, organs, and tissues function. If your thyroid produces too many or too few hormones, you may experience hundreds of symptoms.
If your thyroid produces too many hormones, you’ll experience what’s known as hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism causes your body’s metabolism to increase, resulting in unintentional weight loss or a rapid heart rate. Common symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:
- Weight loss, even when your food intake remains constant
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Anxiety, irritability, nervousness
- Changes in your menstrual cycle
- More frequent bowel movements
- Trouble sleeping
- Swelling at the base of your neck
These symptoms are pretty common and can be caused by several health problems, making hyperthyroidism hard to diagnose. However, when properly diagnosed, anti-thyroid medications or radioactive iodine help decrease the production of thyroid hormones. For more severe cases, your physician may recommend surgery to remove a part, or all, of your thyroid gland.
On the other hand, hypothyroidism is when your thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormones. The symptoms of hypothyroidism are more subtle and are often unnoticeable in the early stages.
The most common symptoms are:
- Weight gain
- Muscle aches or weakness
- Heavier menstrual periods
- Slower heart rate
- Higher cholesterol levels
Women are at a higher risk for hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, and other factors increase your chances, such as age, family history, and diabetes.
Since many symptoms overlap and mimic other issues, it can frequently be hard to determine if hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism is the root cause of your health problems. If you’re
experiencing any of the above symptoms or notice other changes in your body, you should consult your doctor. If left untreated, severe issues can occur, such as heart problems, skin problems, change in your vision, mental health issues, and even infertility.
Your thyroid has excellent control over how your entire body functions, so you always want it to be as healthy as possible.