June 27, 2012

Symptoms of Low Thyroid

Symptoms of Low ThyroidIt’s estimated that 13 million Americans have low thyroid and don’t know it.  Could you be one of them?  You need to find out if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of low thyroid.  We have spent much time on this site discussing sex hormones, but optimal thyroid function is just as important to your overall health. The thyroid gland may be the most under appreciated organ in the body.

Low thyroid function, or hypothyroidism, occurs slowly and the symptoms can be non-specific, therefore possibly related to another cause, that the connection between symptoms and low thyroid is frequently overlooked.

What Does the Thyroid Do?

Excellent question. First, the thyroid is located in the front of the neck right below your Adam’s apple. Think metabolism when you think of thyroid function.  Metabolism is how and at what speed our bodies uses energy to perform the thousands of biochemical reactions that take place in our cells each day.  Thyroid hormone enables our other organs to function more efficiently and effectively. Symptoms of low thyroid are many.

Symptoms of Low Thyroid

  • Fatigue (most common)
  • Dry skin and/or brittle hair that may be thinning
  • Feeling cold especially in hands and feet when room temperature is normal
  • Decreased libido
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Memory loss or foggy thinking
  • Weight gain
  • Muscle aches or weakness
  • Increase in total and LDL cholesterol

When the thyroid gland malfunctions and doesn’t produce enough thyroid our bodily processes slow down.  Our minds work more slowly, our heart beats more slowly, our GI tract moves more slowly, and so on.  That’s why people feel tired, become depressed, loss mental sharpness, develop constipation.  People feel cold because of poor circulation, but also because muscles are burning fewer calories as the result of slower metabolism. Burning calories produces heat.

And, the weight gain, we can’t forget that.  Slower metabolism from low thyroid leads to weight gain.

Increase Risk of Disease from Low Thyroid

Symptoms from low thyroid are only one part of the story.  Low thyroid increase your risk of other diseases. Individuals with low thyroid are at increased risk for heart disease and stroke. Low thyroid is strongly associated with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Diagnosing Low Thyroid

There’s good news and bad news when it comes to diagnosing low thyroid.  The good news is low thyroid can be diagnosed with blood tests (the main ones are TSH, T3, and T4, but there are others that can be done).  The bad news is low thyroid is frequently not diagnosed because of blood tests as many doctors diagnose low thyroid only if certain laboratory criteria are met without taking into account the severity and number of symptoms an individual may be experiencing. Many times the symptoms of low thyroid are overlooked.

We disagree with this approach. Like our other hormones, there is an optimal level or normal level for each individual. What’s normal for me may not be normal for you. So it makes sense that if an individual has symptoms that suggest low thyroid and they cannot be explained by other causes, to provide thyroid replacement on a trial basis.

There’s a maxim in medicine to explain as many signs and symptoms with as few diagnoses as possible.  It makes sense.  If someone presents with 5 symptoms that are recent it is more likely those symptoms are related to one cause rather than 5 different causes. So if you’re taking several medications for signs/symptoms (depression, muscle aches, elevated cholesterol in particular) that seem to be related to low thyroid and have been told your “thyroid function is normal” think again.  You might benefit from thyroid replacement. Don’t let the symptoms of low thyroid slow you down.

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Dr. Joe Jacko


Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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