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An untreated thyroid problem such as inadequately treated hypothyroidism can lead to a number of other health problems.
Understanding your symptoms of hypothyroidism and having regular tests to monitor it, will help to prevent any complications. I’m going to explore some known complications below.
Goitres or Nodules
Have you ever noticed your neck seems enlarged or been told it ‘sticks out’? Do you struggle to swallow or feel a lump in your throat? Experience a croaky voice or tenderness?
You could have an enlarged thyroid gland, also called a goitre, or a nodule. It can be slight or very noticeable and is usually caused when your thyroid over exerts itself. Read more here.
Mental Health Conditions
The symptoms of hypothyroidism can cause, be linked to, or have an effect on our mental health, such as depression and anxiety. I had both of these. The thyroid hormone T3 is incredibly important for mental health but many of us are low in it. Read more about hypothyroidism and mental health here.
If thyroid hormone levels are not right, it can affect ovulation and decrease chances of conceiving. Miscarriages can also be common. You can read more here.
Low Sex Drive
Having a low libido or sex drive is no joke, yet seldom talked about. Hypothyroidism can cause both men and women to feel lacklustre. Read more here.
Along with many of the other symptoms of hypothyroidism, menstrual issues is a common one. Thyroid hormone is needed for pretty much every function and cell in the body so when your thyroid levels are off, many processes — including your menstrual cycle — can be affected. Read more here.
Low Vitamin Levels
Low levels in iron, ferritin, Vitamin D, B12 etc. are all common with hypothyroidism. It’s worth getting your levels checked and then ensuring they’re optimal, as they can be pretty simple to fix yet cause many symptoms.
Inadequately treated hypothyroidism can affect the health of your heart , such as an increase in developing heart disease, and “bad” cholesterol, with high and low blood pressure also linked to thyroid problems.
Due to high levels of “bad” cholesterol, hypothyroidism can therefore also lead to a hardening of the arteries, which increases your risk of heart attacks and strokes. Read more here.
I had high blood pressure before my thyroid was properly treated.
If left a long time without treatment, on treatment not best for you, or been through any chronic emotional, mental or biological stress of any kind, then your adrenal glands may have been working overtime to keep you going during this stress, and now be suffering for it.
I have had adrenal dysfunction in the past, due to being inadequately treated for so long, but also due to major life events causing chronic stress and anxiety. Read more here.
(Please note: ‘adrenal fatigue’ is more accurately referred to as hypothalamic-pituitary axis dysfunction.)
Also known as low blood sugar, hypoglycaemia is linked to adrenal dysfunction, so having adrenal issues increases your chances of having this. Dr Wilson’s book is very helpful about this topic, as well as adrenal fatigue. When your blood sugar levels drop below normal, your adrenal glands respond by secreting cortisol.
Myxoedema Coma is a loss of brain function as a result of longstanding, severely low level of thyroid hormone. It is considered a life-threatening complication of hypothyroidism but is extremely rare these days. Don’t skip taking your medication!
Although many thyroid patients are told they also have fibromyalgia, a separate condition to their hypothyroidism, and although it can be a separate health issue, it may actually be a symptom of a poorly treated thyroid condition.
Dr Barry Durrant-Peatfield covers this in his book. I’ve heard many patients say that once they were able to get out of their hypothyroid state, going by a full thyroid panel and raising Free T3 especially to optimal, their fibromyalgia improved or went away altogether.
A full thyroid panel consists of: TSH, Free T3, Free T4, Tpoab, Tgab and Reverse T3.
Muscle and joint pain, stiffness, cramping and spasming are well reported amongst thyroid patients. You can read more here, on one of my most popular articles of all time.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME
Another condition I have been diagnosed with in the past is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
This can be another sign of hypothyroidism not being optimally treated, and once your blood results (a full thyroid panel) read optimally, and you have optimal iron, ferritin, B12 and Vitamin D, etc. it may well just go away or improve a lot.
I personally suspect that adrenal issues and hypothyroidism could be behind a lot of chronic fatigue syndrome diagnoses. Dr Barry Durranr-Peatfield also covers it in his book. My own ‘Chronic Fatigue Syndrome’ disappeared with optimal thyroid treatment. Namely, moving from Levothyroxine medication to NDT.
Since low thyroid can lead to weight gain, this can result in being overweight and also obesity.
Stomach and Gut Problems
Another issues I’ve had whilst also being hypothyroid, is regular acid reflux.
Gut problems linked to hypothyroidism can also include GERD/GORD and low levels of stomach acid. The right amount of acid will help stop things like acid reflux.
If you get symptoms such as heart burn, acid on your chest or at the back of your mouth, you likely have stomach acid or gut health issues.
You need to be careful though, as most medicine given for acid reflux issues can badly interact with Levothyroxine (and other T4-only meds). The best thing to do first is get as many of these tests done to rule out your thyroid being linked to it. Talk to a doctor to explore other causes.
Particularly interesting and quite scary, is Alzheimer’s Disease being connected to your thyroid levels.
A study found that:
“Women with TSH below 1.0 and those with a TSH above 2.1 had a greater than two-fold higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease.” 
In contrast, they observed no such relationship between TSH levels and Alzheimer’s Disease risk in men.
I am of course not implying you’ll get or have any or all of the above, but they’re definitely worth keeping in mind.
Ensuring your thyroid levels are optimised can go a long way in preventing other issues, as well as making sure you’re having a full thyroid panel tested.
Have you been diagnosed with any other conditions?
You can click on the hyperlinks in the above post to learn more and see references to information given.
Rachel Hill is the highly ranked and award-winning thyroid patient advocate, writer, blogger, speaker and author behind The Invisible Hypothyroidism. She has two books: ‘Be Your Own Thyroid Advocate‘ and ‘You, Me and Hypothyroidism‘. Her thyroid advocacy work includes authoring books, writing articles, blogging and speaking on podcasts. Rachel has worked with The National Academy of Hypothyroidism, BBC, The Mighty, Yahoo, MSN, ThyroidChange and more. She is well-recognised as a useful contributor to the thyroid community and has received eight 2020 WEGO Health Award Nominations.