8 Signs You May Need Your Thyroid Checked

It’s estimated that anywhere from 20 million to 59 million Americans suffer from thyroid disease, but many remain undiagnosed. Because symptoms vary widely, and sometimes are not present at all, it’s possible to live with thyroid problems for years without knowing it… a scenario that puts your health at risk.In fact, the Colorado Thyroid Disease Prevalence Study found that nearly 10 percent of study participants had an unrecognized thyroid abnormality, a finding that suggests on a national level that 13 million Americans may be living with undiagnosedthyroid problems.[1]In the United States the most common thyroid problem is hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid. If left untreated, hypothyroidism has been linked to heart problems, including diastolic heart failure and coronary heart disease, even at the subclinical level,[2] along with worsening symptoms and decreased quality of life.Is Regular Thyroid Screening Important?If you’re showing signs of thyroid problems, which I’ll describe shortly, it’s crucial to get your thyroid checked. But what if you feel normal?Because thyroid problems often exist with no symptoms at all, it may be a good idea to have yours checked regularly.The American Thyroid Association recommends adults be screened for thyroid dysfunction starting at age 35 and continuing every five years thereafter.[3] Since thyroid disease is much more common in women than men, this is especially important for women, although men may benefit as well.However, there are other signs that signal it’s time to have your thyroid screened as well, signs that are easy to miss or mistake for other health conditions.8 Signs You Should Have Your Thyroid CheckedIf you’re experiencing any of the symptoms below, it’s time to have your thyroid evaluated.1. FatigueUtter exhaustion is a common sign of thyroid trouble, but one that is also caused by numerous other variables as well. If you’ve felt fatigued for a long time, are so tired you feel you can’t get through your day or feel like going back to sleep even after you’ve had a full night’s rest, it could be your thyroid.2. Unexplained Weight Gain or LossIf your weight has fluctuated wildly recently for no apparent reason, it could be due to a thyroid imbalance. This includes both weight gain (hypothyroidism) and weight loss (hyperthyroidism).3. Family History of Thyroid DiseaseThyroid problems tend to run in families, so if you have a relative with hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s disease, Grave’s disease or goiter, you should watch your thyroid health more closely.4. Mental/Emotional TroubleChanges in your mood ranging from depression to anxiety and panic attacks can all be related to thyroid problems, as can difficulty concentrating, “foggy brain,” and memory problems. This is especially true if these symptoms appear rather suddenly, as opposed to being an issue you’ve dealt with your entire life.5. You’ve Taken Certain MedicationsThe following medications can increase your risk of hypothyroidism: Amiodarone, Lithium, Interferon alpha, Interleukin- 2, and (possibly) Thalidomide.6. Cholesterol ProblemsBoth high and low cholesterol can signal thyroid trouble, especially if your levels have not responded to dietary and exercise changes or even medications. High cholesterol is associated with hypothyroidism while low cholesterol is linked to hyperthyroidism.7. Skin and Hair IssuesHair loss, along with dry and brittle hair, is a common symptom of thyroid abnormalities, as is dry or scaly skin.8. Irregular Menstruation or Fertility TroublesWomen with thyroid disease may experience heavier, more painful periods or, on the other end of the spectrum, less frequent, lighter menstruation. Thyroid problems can also lead to infertility or miscarriages.More Reasons to Look Into Your Thyroid Health… and What to Know About Thyroid TestingIt’s important to keep a close watch on your thyroid even if you’ve already been diagnosed with hypothyroidism and are taking thyroid hormones. Why? Because even among people taking thyroid medication, studies have found that only 60 percent fell within the normal ranges for thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) level [4] — putting the other 40 percent at risk of the numerous health issues associated with untreated thyroid problems, such as cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis and infertility.Further, if you’ve had a TSH or T4 test to check for hypothyroidism and your levels came back normal, but you’re still experiencing unexplained symptoms, this warrants further testing as well — even if your doctor is telling you that everything looks fine.Research suggests that reference ranges for “normal” TSH are actually too wide, so your levels may be off kilter even if they appear normal according to current lab reference ranges. If you fall into this category, where your lab tests came back normal but you still suspect thyroid trouble, you’ll need to find a practitioner who can use alternative methods to help with your diagnosis.Unfortunately, low-functioning thyroid, especially, is often completely missed due to inadequate testing and a general lack of understanding of the complexities of thyroid function among the medical community.And remember, the need for further analysis holds true even if you’ve already been diagnosed and are taking thyroid hormones, as regular reevaluation and attention to the mechanisms triggering the disease are essential to your recovery.References1. Archives of Internal Medicine 2000 Feb 28;160(4):526-34.2. Journal of the American College of Cardiology 2008; 52:1152-11593. Archives of Internal Medicine 2000;160:1573-1575.4. Archives of Internal Medicine 2000 Feb 28;160(4):526-34.