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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 generally, 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:
- Sensitivity to cold/heat
- Weight gain and inability to lose weight
- Constipation and/or wind often
- Slow movements, speech and thoughts
- Itchy and/or sore scalp
- Muscle aches, pains and weakness
- Muscle cramps
- Poor appetite
- Dry and tight feeling skin
- Brittle hair and nails
- Loss of libido (sex drive)
- Pain, numbness
- Numbness in limbs
- Irregular periods or heavy periods
- Brain fog/confusion/memory problems
- Hoarse voice
- A puffy-looking face
- Thinned or partly missing eyebrows
- 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)
- Hearing loss
- Poor stamina
- Feeling weak
- The need to nap more than others
- Long recovery period after any activity
- Arms feeling like dead weights after activity
- Inability to exercise, or withstand certain exercises
- Diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Being overly emotional
- Poor circulation
- High or rising cholesterol
- Acid reflux
- Hair loss
- Easy bruising
- Swollen legs that impede walking
- 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 totally accurate on its own and the other components of the panel also need checking, especially if TSH comes back ‘normal’.
If your doctor won’t test you for a thyroid condition but you believe you may have one, or if they won’t run all the tests you need, you can explore ordering your own from online lab services.
Optimal levels are also 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 check out the organisations shown 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.
Do you have a thyroid condition?
You can click on the hyperlinks in the above post to learn more and see references to information given.
Some helpful materials you can use to spread awareness:
Rachel Hill is the highly ranked and multi-award winning thyroid patient advocate, writer, speaker and author behind The Invisible Hypothyroidism. Her thyroid advocacy work includes writing articles, authoring books, producing her Thyroid Family email newsletters and speaking on podcasts, as well as being a founding board member for the American College of Thyroidology. She is well-recognised as a crucial contributor to the thyroid community and has a large social media presence. Her books include “Be Your Own Thyroid Advocate” and “You, Me and Hypothyroidism”.