If your cardiovascular system is the super-highway that brings oxygenated blood around your body so that you can live, then the endocrine system produces the mailmen that travel down these highways to deliver hormones to regulate your body’s functions. When your endocrine system isn’t working properly, then your entire quality of life will depreciate. At the extreme, endocrine abnormalities have been linked to cancer, particularly if you have an autoimmune disease. The most common is Hashimoto’s Disease, an autoimmune disorder that attacks the thyroid and causes it to underperform the creation of hormones. Here we will talk about the signs of a hypothyroid condition.
The butterfly-shaped gland in your neck is your thyroid. It creates two principle hormones: triiodothyronine (T3), and Thyroxine (T4). These chemicals are signaled by the Hypothalamus—a part of your brain—to produce Thyroid Stimulating Releasing Hormone (TSH) to release these two hormones. When levels are too low, the pituitary gland sends more TSH to the thyroid to produce more hormone. In addition, progesterone aids in the release of these hormones, while estrogen prevents it. If the levels are high, the pituitary releases less TSH to the thyroid gland to slow the production of these hormones.
Symptoms of an Underactive Thyroid
- Weight Gain. A common visible symptom of an underactive thyroid is difficulty maintaining a lower weight. You may have noticed that, as a child, you had more difficulty keeping your weight lower than others. Alternatively, you may be older and experience sudden and uncontrollable weight gain without a change in your otherwise healthy routine. This is a sign that your thyroid is unable to raise your metabolism to a healthy rate.
- Acne. Acne is the most common skin ailment in the U.S., yet everyone’s body chemistry varies and thus react differently to medications. What really causes cystic acne is a mixture of your environment and your hormones. Hypothyroidism can cause a deficiency in Vitamin A, which is a fat-soluble vitamin that regenerates keratin in the skin. Your lethargic thyroid will not effectively convert carotenoids to Vitamin A, which can cause acne. Hypothyroidism is also linked to elevated androgen levels, a member of the testosterone family, which is the main cause of acne in men, and can therefore increase acne in women.
- Fatigue. Fatigue is another sign that your metabolism isn’t working properly. It can also contribute to a foggy memory, as both your body and mind feel dysfunctional. If you never feel like you get enough sleep at even eight to ten hours a day, and need to take consistent naps, then you should speak with a doctor about hypothyroidism.
- Low Libido/ PCOS. There is a strong link between hypothyroidism and both of these symptoms. If you experience irregular periods, this could because you can have elevated male hormone levels, such as those discussed with acne. See how these all link up? Fatigue and lower estrogen levels can cause a decrease in libido as well as an increased risk of PCOS, or polycystic ovary syndrome. PCOS causes cysts to form on the ovaries, which can cause irregular periods, infertility, and an increased risk of ovarian cancer. If your doctor believes you have a thyroid issue, they will usually want to check for PCOS as well. PCOS can usually be treated with birth control, checkups with a gynecologist, and fertility treatments for those wishing to become pregnant.
- Depression. Along with the other symptoms, the mixture of the above can cause depression. The inability to remain active, to sleep well, or feel in control of your body. This can cause low-grade to high-grade depression.
- Sensitivity to Cold. Your low metabolism can decrease circulation to your limbs, which can make you very sensitive to cold. If your iron counts are normal from a blood test but you still experience this symptom, you will likely have hypothyroid.
If you experience any of these symptoms over a long period of time, do not write it off as being “just how your body works.” It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you are just a naturally tired person, that your weight-gain is purely genetic, etc. Speak with an endocrinologist to see if you have a hypothyroid condition. They will simply administer a blood test, perform an ultrasound, perform a biopsy, and prescribe you the necessary medication. You can monitor your hypothyroidism, so put it in your control and change your life for the better.