Your thyroid gland is responsible for a lot of functions in the body, so it's important to address any problems early. The thyroid gland produces hormones which regulate the body's metabolic rate, digestive and heart function, muscle control, brain development and bone maintenance - so the functioning of your thyroid is necessary for all the cells in your body to work normally!
Your thyroid is found in your neck, just below your Adam's apple, and is made up of two lobes joined together by a small bridge of tissue. When your thyroid is normal size, you usually cannot feel it, however if problems develop it can begin to swell.
Thyroid problems are more common in women, with 15 in every 1,000 women affected compared to only 1 in 1,000 men. Experts have suggested that this is because female bodies are more sensitive to hormonal changes.
The two main problems that occur is when the thyroid either becomes overactive or underactive.
Symptoms of an underactive thyroid
An underactive thyroid gland is when the thyroid doesn't produce enough hormones, this condition is more common than an overactive thyroid. An underactive thyroid can be treated with daily hormone replacement tablets. Sadly there is no way of preventing this from happening, as in most cases an underactive thyroid is caused by the immune system attacking the thyroid gland or it may occur through damage to the thyroid gland from other treatments.
Symptoms of an underactive thyroid are often quite general and similar to other conditions, these include:
- Weight gain
- Feeling sensitive to the cold
- Muscle aches
Usually they develop slowly so you may not notice them for a few years, but if you do notice a difference your GP can test your for an underactive thyroid. This test simply involves checking your hormones levels from a sample of blood.
If an underactive thyroid is left untreated symptoms such as a slower heart rate, hoarse voice, puffy face and anemia can occur. It can also lead to complications including heart disease and goitre (a lump at the front of the neck) - so if you notice something usual it's always best to go and talk to your GP.
Symptoms of an overactive thyroid
An overactive thyroid is when the gland produces too many hormones for the body. Excess levels of these hormones can speed up the body's metabolism and lead to a range of symptoms - some of these may include anxiety, hyperactivity, unexplained weight loss and swelling of the gland (usually causing a noticeable lump in the throat).
Problems in the eye area can also be a symptom of an overactive thyroid. Many people don't think twice if they have puffy eyes, because they think it could be due to short-term problems such as a lack of sleep or an allergy. However, puffy eyes can also be a symptom of a problem with your thyroid. Patients with an overactive thyroid can get a thickening of the fat around their eyes - causing them to puff. Other symptoms may also include eye watering, light sensitivity, eyelid swelling and retraction of the eyelid.
There are a variety of ways in which an overactive thyroid can be treated. The most widely used treatments involve medications which stop the thyroid gland producing excess hormones as well as surgery which can remove some of the thyroid gland causing the problem. Sometimes these treatments can result in the thyroid not producing enough hormones - so an underactive thyroid may occur as a consequence.
Home highlight kits that will give you salon-worthy results
Here’s how to use home highlight kits to color your hair—whether you have blonde hair, brunette hair, or dark hair
By Aleesha Badkar •
Does Coolsculpting work? We tried fat freezing and these are our thoughts
Does Coolsculpting work and is fat freezing really worth it? We reveal all
By Fiona McKim •
Why do I have a sore vagina? 6 possible causes, and what to do about it
The experts reveal the reasons why you might be sore down there
By Miriam Habtesellasie •
Sex therapy app, Lover, is the first of its kind to be granted approval from the FDA
Now you can get therapy for sexual issues in the palm of your hand
By Rylee Johnston •
How to brush your teeth properly for a whiter and healthier smile—10 tips from dental experts
Are you brushing your teeth as well as you could be? Tweaking your technique could make all the difference
By Ciara McGinley •
6 at-home toothache remedies ranked by how easy and effective they are
Our ratings of the best at-home toothache remedies will help you get through painful days
By Ciara McGinley •
Will we ever find a cure for Alzheimer's? Research points to new treatments for symptoms of the disease
The latest research into a cure for Alzheimer's provides a glimmer of hope for those with early stages of the disease
By Allie Anderson •
How to sleep better by making a few simple changes to your daily routine
Mastering how to sleep better can change your life—and these nine expert-approved tips will have you snoozing in no time
By Sarah Finley •
'Running is my therapy'—Katie Piper on mental health, half marathons and her rallying cry to non-running women everywhere
In an exclusive interview with woman&home, Katie Piper shares her inspiring journey from reluctant runner to half marathon finisher
By Emma Dooney •
Is your bad breath halitosis? How to recognize it and treat it yourself
We outline the causes, diagnosis, and treatment of halitosis—plus the signs your bad breath is a symptom of something serious
By Ciara McGinley •