Click here to listen to a reading of this blog:
Adequate thyroid hormone is required by every cell and every function in the body. Without it, a lot of issues and symptoms can manifest to let us know that something is wrong. Before I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, I had a long list of mounting symptoms and complaints.
When I was eventually diagnosed with autoimmune hypothyroidism and before they were under control and well-managed, I was very surprised to learn that the below symptoms were a result of my thyroid condition.
Related Article: 14 Missed Signs of My Thyroid Condition Before I Was Diagnosed
1. A Puffy Face
Looking back at photos before I was properly treated for hypothyroidism, my face looks quite different. Shape and definition had been lost to a certain extent as puffiness took over.
My eyes were sunken in and heavy and I looked very obviously unwell. Dark bags under my eyes and an overall change in my face shape looks really obvious when I look back at photos now.
When on the T4 medication Levothyroxine, the puffiness unfortunately only worsened. Once I switched to a natural desiccated thyroid medication, it disappeared completely within weeks, so I clearly needed that T3 in this type of medication.
Low thyroid levels can lead to low body temperature, which can then cause fluid retention or bloating, in the form of facial puffiness.
2. Brain Fog, Forgetfulness and Confusion
There were several times before being diagnosed and before being optimally medicated, that I wondered if I was going crazy.
Brain fog is described as feelings of mental confusion or lack of mental clarity. The phrase comes from the feeling of a fog that reduces your ability to think clearly. It can feel like a mental block and can cause a person to become forgetful, detached and discouraged and even depressed as a knock on, or secondary, effect.
I’ve heard from many thyroid patients who even wonder if they have early onset dementia, before being diagnosed. How scary is that?
At my worst point, I could get to midday and completely forget everything I had done up to that point, finding it impossible to recall the last few hours.
Getting optimal on NDT medication, as well as going gluten-free banished this scary thyroid symptom. Going gluten-free helped to managed my Hashimoto’s.
3. Long Recovery Periods
Heavy fatigue and aches and pains are common and somewhat obvious symptoms of hypothyroidism, but poor stamina and long recovery periods may not seem common to all.
I developed a major intolerance to exercise and on the odd day where I could exercise, be it walking home from work, walking a friend’s dog or even just doing housework, I soon realised that my body took much longer than it used to to recover. It became easy to do too much physical activity.
Even holding a friend’s baby for ten minutes would result in my arm aching for days afterwards!
Getting my Free T3 levels optimised, as well as addressing adrenal dysfunction in the form of high cortisol, resolved this symptom.
4. Sore Feet First Thing in The Morning
I didn’t realise that others experienced this symptom until a short time ago.
When I was at my most unwell with thyroid disease, I would wake in the morning to sore soles of my feet and had to tiptoe to the bathroom when I first got up. Usually resolving within ten minutes or so of being awake, this symptom was particularly peculiar.
I still experience this one now if I go through a flare up of my thyroid condition.
Getting my Hashimoto’s in to remission made this symptom disappear, and I haven’t had it since.
5. Acid Reflux
How on earth can a gland in your neck cause issues with your digestion?!
Acid reflux is another very common complaint, but many people, like myself, are surprised to learn about the connection between hypothyroidism and this annoying issue.
Low levels of stomach acid can lead to your doctor diagnosing you with gastritis. Like me, doctors put most thyroid patients with these problems on proton pump inhibitor (PPI) medications like omeprazole, which are acid suppressors, when we already have low levels of stomach acid.
So, these mask the symptoms and problem, which just tends to make things worse. When I optimised my thyroid medication, the acid reflux resolved.
Depression with hypothyroidism is quite well recognised due to bodily processes slowing down and the effects that this can have on mental health. However, the worsening of my anxiety disorder was surprising.
When you have Hashimoto’s, the thyroid gland is attacked and destroyed, leading to thyroid hormone being released into the bloodstream in waves. If you feel as if you swing between depression and anxiety, this could be a possible cause.
Therefore, getting my Hashimoto’s better controlled really helped with the anxiety. Addressing any adrenal issues also helps.
7. Hot Flashes
Cold intolerance or feeling cold often is commonly cited as a typical symptom of hypothyroidism, but how about heat intolerance or feeling waves of increased body temperature?
I distinctly remember walking to work in December and stripping off layers as I was dripping in sweat. My coat, gloves, scarf and cardigan all came off until I was bare armed and looking somewhat crazy on a frosty December morning!
This was six months in to being on levothyroxine, before I switched thyroid medication to NDT, where it resolved. Heat intolerance and hot flashes are very often reported among thyroid patients.
8. Itchy and Sore Scalp
Unlike many of the other symptoms on this list, the intensely itchy scalp which inevitably led to being very sore, actually appeared after my switch to natural desiccated thyroid (NDT) medication.
Before I was on the correct dose, this change in medication (perhaps the introduction of T3) made me scratch my head constantly. It soon settled down after some adjustments in dosage and a focus on my gut health was implemented.
9. Leg Cramps
Excruciatingly painful cramping in my calves for years were one of the many signs of an impending thyroid condition.
I would wake up in the middle of the night to one of my calves seizing up and cramping stiffly, which affected my ability to keep up with my running schedule, as the pain would last for a couple of weeks. I only stopped having them once I was put on thyroid medication.
10. Adult Acne
Hypothyroidism is a hormonal disorder, so it’s not hugely surprising that it can contribute to other hormonal imbalances. However, my experiences with cystic acne as an adult didn’t present themselves until I had been on NDT medication for close to six months.
With the help of my functional medicine practitioner, I was able to trace the acne back to coming off the combined contraceptive pill.
I came off of it in December 2015, after reading about how it can worsen hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s, and by May 2016, my skin had broken out in so much cystic acne that I looked like a teenager again!
It turns out that I had had a sex hormone imbalance in the form of oestrogen dominance before going on the pill at sixteen-years-old. The birth control pill masked it and then coming off the pill brought it back out again.
It ties in to hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s since any hormone that is part of the endocrine system has the ability to impact other hormones. Oestrogen dominance and hypothyroidism often go hand-in-hand.
Once I was feeling very well and optimally treated for my thyroid condition, this was once again, a symptom that improved hugely.
What were some of your most surprising thyroid symptoms, looking back?
The book Be Your Own Thyroid Advocate: When You’re Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired, which builds on this article and covers how Rachel turned her health and life around with a thyroid condition.
ShannonFebruary 27, 2023 at 8:17 pm
Absolute debilitating anxiety, a weird pressure in my head, breathing issues, and loss of smell were/are some of my more severe issues. Along with soooo many more.
BreegeDecember 6, 2022 at 5:54 pm
Itching, dry skin. Blood sugar dips that cannot be controlled except by eating clean protein every 2 hours. Terrible legs cramps and acid reflux have disappeared since adding T3 to my Levothyroxine regime. I had a chronic skin infection on my face for 10 years that didn’t respond to any treatment but cleared up with T3! I’m still finding the balance: it’s expensive with all the supplements; zinc, selenium, magnesium, vitamin C, D, MethylFolate, Methylated B12, Milk Thistle, Sulphurophane, gluten-free, sugar-free, processed food free lifestyle, everything is cooked from scratch. It’s worth it not to feel like death every day. Sleep is finally coming back after 4 yrs if no sleep and crushing anxiety. Next to tackle is coming off OCP and balancing my female hormones. I’m 47 so it’s time. Thanks for all your help Rachel. Your books put me in the road to self-advocacy and taking charge of my health. Breege in Ireland 🇮🇪 X
FabienneDecember 5, 2022 at 8:31 pm
OMG!!! You’ve described exactly what was happening to me and still is. Everything from 1 to 9. I haven’t (yet) suffered with adult acne. But all the other symptoms yes yes yes☹️
You mentioned those symptoms that are usually not associated with Hashimoto which brought a sign of relief cos as you say, it’s so easy to think we’re going mad. Knowing that you had these too, is sad but reassuring to me as I understand my body and the condition better. Your book “Be your own advocate…..” had helped me tremendously. Thank you Rachel!!!
Julia HallidayMay 25, 2022 at 3:59 pm
Very interesting reading, I had my thyroid removed 34 yrs ago after many months of trial and error . Starting with headaches, doc said depression on meds for two yrs. then went back and still had headaches along with chronic shakes for months, he said oh dear we best do blood test. Came back under active thyroid, took the pills then after yrs of trial and error on the dosage, I ended up on 250mcgs of thyroxine. Then I woke up one morning and it looked like I had silver sideburns. Both sides of my hair were grey, back to docs now I’m overactive. Years layer I have Hypoparathyroidism. I’m now settled on 150mcgs thyroxine. I still go through some of the facts you stated which I didn’t realise was due to thyroid is, cramps and the worst the itchy scalp I described as feeling like my hair was infested by a 1000 fleas it was awful. Thank you for bringing all this info, which was very helpful.
JenellNovember 7, 2021 at 6:14 pm
I have tried pretty much all meds. The only one that wirked was np in 2019 before they changed it. I constantly look sickly. My eyes r dark and im puffy. But i i dont eat enough to gain i pretty much have given up.
Right now im on tirosent 112. T3 made me tired.
My prayer is Lord i want my kids to see u in me. Laughing, joyful. Serving.
Margaret maclureApril 28, 2021 at 10:47 am
This is a very hard disease to struggle with day to day the tiredness feeling ill aches n pains can hardly walk at times and because I feel ill sometimes I don’t even feel like a bottle of wine at the weekend it’s even taken that away as I can’t afford to be ill more I used to have very bad rashes under my breast was like a red indian however since I was prescribed hibiscrub that’s helped major but my levothyroxine has done nothing for me xxx
LisaJune 29, 2020 at 7:11 am
I would also get a really puffy face I took antihistamines thinking I had allergies it was always really bad in the morning. I would slur my words and my voice would be really hoarse by 3.30 in the afternoon and would have difficulty getting my words out. Was so cold I actually slept with a coat on one night. I went to the doctors twice before having a blood test I thought I had a brain tumour and was dying I felt so ill. My numbers were 200+ the doctor said it was a miracle I wasn’t in a coma.
KimApril 16, 2020 at 12:24 pm
Hi Rachel, Thank you for all of your information that you put out it has helped so much.. Could you please share with me how and what supplements you used to get your high cortisol down? I’m have difficulty getting mine down so my body can actually use the t3 😭😭 Help!!!
Rachel HillApril 21, 2020 at 10:51 am
Hi Kim, everything detailed in this article: https://www.theinvisiblehypothyroidism.com/how-i-got-my-hashimotos-in-to-remission/
Sue DaviesAugust 15, 2019 at 7:48 am
Pins and needles across my jaw line which spread into left side of tongue, followed by short spontaneous cough. A kind of weird fizzing sensation. These symptoms started when in any way stressed, tired, late for appointment, difficult conversation etc.
Nasal congestion where everyone asks if I have a cold and disturbs my sleep repeatedly. My mild hayfever symptoms have become significant and extended. Antihistamines no longer make much difference.
Vision changes if tired too.
Jodi AshbyMay 19, 2019 at 10:50 pm
Wondering about a few symptoms I’ve been having even though I have every symptom listed & more,like all over itching after showers or when feeling hot & vision changes. Anyone out there complained about those issues linked to this awful disease 😳