Thyroid conditions are on the rise. While experts estimate that as many as 30 to 50 million Americans have thyroid disorders, they agree that at least half of those affected are currently undiagnosed. The thyroid—the small, bowtie-shaped gland in the neck— is your master gland of metabolism and energy. When it isn’t working properly, you may experience a number of unexplained and troublesome symptoms.
Could you be one of the millions of people struggling with a thyroid condition? Here are five common signs.
1. Tired of being tired?
If you feel particularly exhausted, even after getting a decent stretch of sleep each night, this could be a sign of an undiagnosed thyroid condition. I have heard from many people who said they had to take lunchtime naps in their cars just to make it through a workday, or who regularly slept 14 or more hours per night each weekend just to make it through the week. If you are tired of being tired, it’s a clear sign that you should have your thyroid evaluated.
2. Gaining weight just looking at food?
Are you on a sensible diet and exercise plan, and finding that the pounds just won’t budge? Are you gaining weight on a low-calorie diet? Have you started gaining weight inexplicably, despite no change to your diet and workout routine? A slowed metabolism and difficulty losing weight are common complaints of undiagnosed thyroid patients, and a slow thyroid—hypothyroidism—can sabotage even the strictest weight loss program. Getting diagnosed and treated is not a miracle weight loss cure, but it does allow a healthy diet and exercise to finally work.
3. Stressed and depressed?
Are you finding yourself feeling anxious, depressed, or moody, without an obvious cause? Thyroid disorders are associated with a variety of symptoms that are frequently misdiagnosed as mental health issues. Before filling that prescription for an antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication, make sure your thyroid gets a thorough checkup.
4. Where is your hair?
Do you dread washing or brushing your hair, because it calls attention to how much hair you are shedding? Are your drains getting clogged by excess hair? Thinking about a wig or a hair transplant? Hair loss – including body hair, and the outer edges of the eyebrows – is another common sign of thyroid problems. Once properly treated, many patients find that hair loss slows, and hair eventually regrows normally.
5. Where did you put your keys again?
Are you finding yourself experiencing memory or concentration problems? Do you feel like your thinking is fuzzy? A symptom often referred to as “brain fog” may point to an undetected thyroid condition.
If you have any of these signs, your next step should be a thorough evaluation of your thyroid, including a hands-on clinical evaluation by your doctor, and blood tests to measure TSH, Free T4, Free T3, and thyroid antibodies. An overactive thyroid—hyperthyroidism—is typically treated with drugs to slow down the thyroid, or a radioactive iodine treatment that permanently disables the thyroid. An underactive thyroid is treated with thyroid hormone replacement medications, including levothyroxine, T3, and natural desiccated thyroid. There’s no reason to go undiagnosed in 2014.