January is Thyroid Awareness Month, a whole month dedicated to raising awareness about that little butterfly shaped gland in your neck, which is responsible for SO much.
Although this organ is responsible for delivering crucial hormones that are needed for every function and cell of the body, when it misbehaves – causing issues such as hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism – it’s still not hugely well recognised among the general public. There are also a lot of misconceptions about the conditions.
It’s important to know that although thyroid disease isn’t well recognised generall, and that you may think you don’t know anyone with it:
- The World Health Organization estimates that 750 million people in the world have some form of thyroid disease.
- Which includes 1 in 20 people in the UK, says the British Thyroid Foundation.
- and The ATA say that as many as 60% are undiagnosed.
So could this include you or a friend or family member?
Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- Sensitiviy to cold/heat
- Weight gain, inability to lose weight
- Constipation/wind often
- Slow movements, speech and thoughts
- Itchy and/or sore scalp
- Muscle cramps, aches, pains and weakness
- Poor appetite
- Dry and tight feeling skin
- Brittle hair and nails
- Loss of libido
- Pain, numbness and a tingling sensation in the hand, fingers and limbs (carpal tunnel syndrome)
- Irregular periods or heavy periods
- Brain fog/confusion/memory problems
- Hoarse voice
- A puffy-looking face
- Thinned or partly missing eyebrows or eyelashes
- A slow heart rate or one that increases more so than a healthy person’s, after physical activity (e.g. after walking up the stairs or emptying the washing machine)
- Anaemia or other vitamin deficiencies
- Poor stamina
- The need to nap more than others
- Long recovery period after any activity
- Inability to exercise, or withstand certain exercises
- Diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Being overly emotional
- Cold hands and feet
- Poor circulation
- High or rising cholesterol
- Acid reflux
- Hair loss
- Easy bruising
- Swollen legs that impede walking
- Shin splints
- Difficulty standing on feet
- Joint stiffness and pain
- Fertility issues
And symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:
- Increased sweating
- Oversentivity to heat
- Increased appetite
- Weight loss
- Dry, thin skin
- Hair loss
- Change in sex drive
- Larger eyes
- Mood changes
- Dry or gritty eyes
- Double vision
- Weak, less define muscles
- Aches and pains
- Changes to menstrual cycle
- Infertility or problems conceiving
If you believe it could be possible that you have a thyroid issue, please make an appointment with your doctor and have them run a full thyroid panel. Your doctor may wish to just run the TSH test first, but it is important to know that this isn’t accurate on its own and the other components of the panel also need checking, especially if TSH comes back ‘normal’. Optimal levels are important, as well as checking thyroid antibodies for autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s and Graves Disease. It is also important to note that having Hashimoto’s can cause results to move up and down as if you’re changing from hypo to hyper, or back and fourth between normal and abnormal. You could also be told you’re ‘only borderline‘ hypothyroid.
If you’ve just been diagnosed, check out these common FAQ’s and answers.
For those of us already diagnosed, we can gain awareness this month about how to check our thyroid glands regularly for any abnormalities, what vitamins may help us and what tests we need to ensure our doctors are doing on us. We should also be aware of what results we are looking for.
For many thyroid patients, they are also still living with lingering symptoms, despite being on treatment for their condition (I’m mainly speaking to hypothyroidism patients here) so delving deeper in to why is something you can do this month. You can live a good quality life with hypothyroidism.
We can also share any resources we’ve found to be helpful, for example, I would suggest all hypothyroid patients to follow the organisations recommended here.
And finally, if you know someone with hypo or hyperthyroidism, please take the time this Thyroid Awareness Month to learn a bit more about their condition and don’t be afraid to ask us questions – we’re always happy to spread awareness and understanding of what we live with.
Some helpful materials you can use to spread awareness:
Written by Rachel, The Invisible Hypothyroidism
Rachel is a Thyroid Patient Advocate and Expert with Six WEGO Award Nominations, a highly ranked writer appearing in the Top Hypothyroidism Websites and Top Thyroid Websites 2018. Currently studying to become a Life Coach, she has worked with The National Academy of Hypothyroidism, The BBC, The Mighty, Dr. Hedberg, Thyroid UK and ThyroidChange, to name just a few. She is well recognised as a trusted and useful contributor to the thyroid community and has relevant qualifications and certificates in Diet and Nutrition, Reflexology, Motivational Speaking and Positive Thinking.