When to Have Your Thyroid Checked by a Specialist

Apr 16, 2024
When to Have Your Thyroid Checked by a Specialist
Are you always tired or cold? Is it hard to control your weight? Are you plagued by low mood, brain fog, dry skin, or thinning hair? If you answered yes to many of these questions, it’s time to have your thyroid checked by a specialist.

Thyroid disease — an umbrella medical term encompassing any disorder that causes the gland to make too much or too little thyroid hormone — affects about 20 million people in the United States. More than 12% of American adults, mostly women, develop a thyroid disorder at some point in life.  

For as common as it is, thyroid disease is also greatly underdiagnosed: Up to 3 in 5 people (60%) with thyroid problems are completely unaware of their condition. Why? The various, nonspecific symptoms associated with thyroid disorders are easily dismissed or mistaken for other health issues. 

At Comprehensive Care Clinic in Spring, Texas, chronic disease management specialist Tyneza Mitchell, FNP, and our team can help you get to the bottom of baffling symptoms like unusual changes in energy, weight, and mood. Here, we explore five broad health concerns that should prompt you to have your thyroid checked.

The “master director” of metabolism 

As one of the most vital components of your endocrine system, your thyroid gland makes and releases hormones that regulate your metabolism, or the complex process of how your body produces, uses, and stores energy. This, in turn, affects the function of virtually every organ in your body. 

 As the “master director” of your metabolism, this small, butterfly-shaped endocrine gland situated at the front of your neck has considerable influence over your energy levels as well as your body weight. It also helps govern important bodily functions like:

  • Heart rate
  • Blood pressure 
  • Blood cholesterol regulation
  • Respiration and digestion
  • Body temperature regulation 
  • Cognition and mood balance
  • Skin and hair maintenance 
  • Sex hormone output
  • Fertility 

Your thyroid uses iodine — a natural element commonly found in iodized table salt — to make its metabolism-regulating hormones. The two main hormones it creates are thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), which are collectively referred to as “thyroid hormone.” 

Common signs of thyroid dysfunction 

Thyroid disorders fall into two general categories: those that cause the gland to become overactive and release too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism), and those that cause it to become underactive and secrete too little thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism).    

Hypothyroidism is five times more common than hyperthyroidism, but most cases are mild or have few glaring symptoms. Even so, both conditions can trigger a variety of nonspecific physical, mental, or emotional changes that appear gradually — and are readily dismissed or confused for other health concerns. 

Common warning signs of a possible thyroid disorder include:

1. Fatigue and energy depletion 

Ongoing fatigue and abnormally fast energy depletion are leading indicators of an underactive thyroid. An overactive thyroid is associated with chronic sleep problems, including insomnia, and associated daytime fatigue and low energy.  

2. Unexplained weight changes

An underactive thyroid can slow your metabolism, leading to unexplained weight gain and difficulty losing weight through diet and exercise. An overactive thyroid, on the other hand, can increase your metabolism, causing unexpected weight loss — despite also triggering a greater appetite at the same time.  

3. Mood or cognitive disruptions

An underactive thyroid is associated with forgetfulness, general “brain fog,” low mood, and depression, while an overactive thyroid can trigger uncharacteristic irritability and anxiety.  

4. Over-sensitivity to temperature 

An underactive thyroid can make you less tolerant of cold environments and freezing weather, while an overactive thyroid is associated with increased perspiration and greater sensitivity to hot, humid weather and high temperatures. 

5. Menstrual period changes 

Women are 5-8 times more likely than men to have a thyroid disorder — especially right after pregnancy or menopause. The signs of an underactive thyroid (i.e., fatigue, low mood, weight gain, dry skin, thinning hair) can be harder for older women to recognize as a thyroid problem since they’re a lot like the symptoms of menopause.  

For women who haven’t reached menopause, an underactive thyroid may cause heavier or more frequent periods, while an overactive thyroid can lead to irregular or missed periods that interfere with fertility. 

Think your thyroid should be checked?

Joint pain, muscle weakness, shaky hands, a rapid heartbeat, dry skin, thinning hair, and bowel movement changes are other possible warning signs of a thyroid problem. 

If you’re experiencing two or more nonspecific symptoms — especially if unexplained fatigue and weight changes are present — it’s a good idea to have your thyroid checked. In most cases, thyroid disease can be treated with medication.  

To schedule a thyroid evaluation at Comprehensive Care Clinic, call 832-346-6752 today, or use our online booking feature to make an appointment at your convenience.