Have you ever seen people promoting the use of iodized salt? Most people do not know why they are supposed to use iodized salt in their regular foods, just that it is healthy for them. Iodine is an essential component of our diet, which enables the production of thyroid hormones. Contrary to some beliefs, iodine is not sufficient in a regular diet. Hence, small quantities of this element in its purest form are incorporated in salt to provide us with the right balance of natural elements required by our body for hormone synthesis.
Lack of iodine in the diet of an individual raises concerns about the early warning signs of thyroid problems. In this case, the thyroid problem will be a result of low amounts of thyroid hormone produces. However, in other cases, thyroid problems can occur due to either of the two extremities – excessively high or low thyroid hormones in the body.
The most frequently asked question remains: what the early warning signs of thyroid problems are. Following this, people wonder whether the early warning signs of thyroid problems in females are the same as that of men. This article explores the similarities and differences reported amongst men and women regarding their early warning signs of thyroid problems.
What is the Thyroid?
Before we get into the early warning signs of thyroid problem, it is important to know the anatomical location and function of the thyroid. The thyroid is approximately a 2-inch long butterfly-shaped endocrine gland just under the larynx or voice box at the base of the neck. Its main function is to produce, store, and release hormones that regulate all vital body functions, such as
- Body temperature
- Body weight
- Cardiovascular health
- Central nervous system (CNS)
- Cholesterol levels
- Menstrual cycle
- Muscle strength and control
- Peripheral nervous system (PNS)
The thyroid gland must function properly for the body to carry out basic metabolic functions. Any sort of impairment in this gland results in health problems ranging from minor, such as weight fluctuations, to severe, such as heart problems and infertility.
How the Thyroid Gland Works
The thyroid gland makes use of the iodine in our system (which comes from your consumed diet) to make the two main hormones – T3 or triiodothyronine and T4 or thyroxine/tetraiodothyronine. It is advised to incorporate 140 micrograms of iodine in a healthy regular daily diet. An appropriate amount of iodine is absorbed by the thyroid gland to manufacture the above-mentioned hormones, while the kidneys excrete the rest of it.
The job of the hypothalamus and pituitary gland in the body is to keep the T3 and T4 hormones in a well-balanced proportion in the circulating system. Under ideal conditions, excessive fluctuations in their blood serum values automatically alert the brain, or more specifically, the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus then either stops or increases its production of the thyroid releasing hormone or TRH, which helps restore the balance between the thyroid hormones.
Low blood T3 and T4 levels stimulate the hypothalamus to secrete increased amounts of TRH, which acts on the pituitary gland to secrete more TSH or thyroid-stimulating hormone. This chain of events leads to increased production of the thyroid hormones from the thyroid gland.
Similarly, high T3 and T4 levels in the blood have the opposite effects on the body’s endocrine system. The hypothalamus secretes lesser TSH, simultaneously causing the pituitary gland to decrease its TSH secretion. Hence, fewer thyroid hormones are produced by the thyroid gland.
Possible Thyroid Problems
Thyroid problems are generally related to increased or decreased production of thyroid hormones. These diseases could be a result of a variety of reasons, ranging from genetics to tumors of the thyroid gland. They are most commonly classified as hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. An underacting thyroid gland produces fewer thyroid hormones and the condition is hence referred to as hypothyroidism. On the contrary, an overactive thyroid gland produces excessive thyroid hormone, resulting in hyperthyroidism.
Early Warning Signs of Thyroid Problems
While the feeling of tiredness and fatigue is used interchangeably by the general public, this is not the case in the medical field. Tiredness tends to go away after a good night’s sleep, whereas, fatigue associated with hypothyroidism or other thyroid problems lingers for long periods.
Fatigue as an early warning sign of thyroid problems in women is often difficult to comprehend. Middle-aged women already experience fatigue due to menopause, so it is easy to mistake normal menopausal fatigue with pre-hypothyroidism fatigue.
These are commonly associated with diarrhea in hyperthyroidism and constipation in hypothyroidism. This presents as an early warning sign of thyroid problems in men and women equally.
Increased Sensitivity to Temperature Changes
A hyperactive thyroid causes an increased metabolic rate, which naturally increases the amount of body heat produced. Early warning signs of hyperthyroidism may present as heat intolerance, abnormal sweating, and brain fog.
On the other hand, an underactive thyroid lowers the metabolic rate below normal and the metabolic system struggles to provide the average heat to the body. This causes increased sensitivity to cold and impedes the body’s otherwise natural ability to keep itself warm in cool temperatures.
Some people with hypothyroidism present with dry and flaky skin, while those with hyperthyroidism show excessively oily skin. This is due to changes in water retention and fat metabolism in the body. Additionally, patients may also present with excessive hair thinning or hair loss as an early warning sign of thyroid problems.
Pigmentation around the neck also manifests as an early warning sign of thyroid problems in men and women. The hyperpigmentation in the skin folds of the neck is usually a sign of a malfunctioning thyroid gland. If you are someone facing a combination of all these symptoms, it is advised to get your thyroid levels tested.
Commonly associated with hyperthyroidism, vision problems persist in the form of bulging eyes or exophthalmia, redness and dryness, and watery eyes. In some cases, difficulty in closing the eyelid can also be noted.
Unexplained Weight Changes
Since thyroid hormones regulate the body’s metabolism, one of their early warning signs in both men and women include a drastic increase or decrease in body weight. Early cases of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism present with slight changes in body weight, which may generally go unnoticed. However, in severe cases of the two, either the weight loss or gain is noticeable and can be diagnosed with a BMR test result.
Another early warning sign of thyroid problems is the inability to sleep or disrupted sleep. If you find yourself to be extremely tired but unable to sleep, you might have an onset of underlying thyroid disease. Sleep disruptions could either be frequently changing positions to sleep, night sweats, or frequent urination, all resulting in low sleep quality.
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism
- Difficulty concentrating
- Dry skin, scalp, and hair
- Frequent or heavy periods (in women)
- Hearing problems
- Increased sensitivity to cold temperatures
- Muscle and joint pain
- Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism
- Atrial fibrillation
- Breast tissue growth (in men)
- Erectile dysfunction (in men)
- Hair loss
- Increased irritability
- Increased sensitivity to high temperatures
- Irregular menstrual cycles (in women)
- Persistent sweating
- Trembling hands when outstretched
It is important for people all around the world, and especially in the United States, to be on the lookout for showing any early warning signs of a thyroid problem. People of all ages, races, and ethnicities are likely to develop thyroid diseases, with women being at a greater risk.
Every 5 in 8 women are said to experience thyroid malfunction in their lifetime. To prevent worsening your underlying condition and identify it at its earliest, Visit HG Analytics for regular wellness screenings. Our expert physicians put focused efforts on preventative health and build you a better, safer, and healthier lifestyle.