Could you have a thyroid problem and not know it?

You’re feeling tired and having trouble concentrating. You’ve been losing-or gaining-weight without trying. Are these just signs that you’re getting older, or could you have a thyroid problem?

Women are more likely than men to have problems with their thyroid, the butterfly-shaped gland in the neck that produces the hormones (T3 and T4) that regulate metabolism. The thyroid can be overactive (hyperthyroidism), meaning that it produces too much of these hormones. Or, it can be underactive (hypothyroidism), meaning that it produces too little of these hormones.

More often in older women, the thyroid is just mildly overactive or underactive–but no enough so to qualify for a diagnosis of hyper or hypothyroidism . This is called a subclinical thyroid problem. Itahas the same causes as overt hyper or hypothyroidism, but because the symptoms can be subtle and mimic those of other conditions, it’s often difficult to know whether you have a subclinical thyroid problem–and if you do, whether it needs to be treated.

Signs you may have a thyroid problem

Overactive thyroid:

  • Fatigue
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Increased appetite
  • Sweating
  • Unintentional weigh loss

Underactive thyroid:

  • Fatigue
  • Increased sensitivity to cols
  • Muscle weakness
  • Brittle nails and hair
  • Hoarse voice
  • Unintentional weight gain

Testing for thyroid problems

Whether or not you have symptoms, if you’re overage 60 you should consider getting screened for subclinical hypothyroidism, according to new guidelines from the American Thyroid Association. A simple blood test can reveal thyroid problems by measuring levels of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH, which directs your thyroid to make its hormones) and T4.

if your TSH level is high but your T4 level is normal, you have asubclinical hypothyroidism.

if your TSH is low and your T4 level is normal, you have subclinical hyperthyroidism.

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