All About the Thyroid

The thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland in the neck, can have a dramatic impact on a huge variety of bodily functions, and if you are a woman of 35 years of age, your odds of a thyroid disorder are high.

The thyroid is one of the largest endocrine glands.  It is found in the neck, below the thyroid cartilage (Adam’s apple).  The thyroid gland controls how quickly the body uses energy, makes proteins, and controls how sensitive the body is to other hormones.  It participates in these processes by producing thyroid hormones, the principal ones being T3 and T4.  These hormones regulate the growth and rate of function of many other systems in the body.  T3 and T4 are synthesized from iodine and tyrosine. 

Hormonal output from the thyroid is regulated by thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) produced by the anterior pituitary.

Things can start to go wrong when your thyroid is under or over active.  What causes your thyroid to go haywire?  It could be genetics, an autoimmune attack, pregnancy, stress, nutritional deficiencies, or toxins in the environment.  No one is really sure.  Because of thyroid hormones far reach in the body – from brain to bowels – diagnosing a disorder can be challenging. 

Here are some things to help you tell if your thyroid could be on the blink.

You’re exhausted.  Feeling tired and having no energy are issues associated with lots of conditions, but they’re strongly linked with hypothyroidism, the disorder that’s the result of too little thyroid hormone.

You’re feeling down.  If you feel unusually depressed or sad, that can be a symptom of hypothyroidism. 

You feel jittery and anxious.  Anxiety and “feeling wired” are associated with hyperthyroidism, when the gland is making too much hormone.  You may feel like you just can’t relax.

Your appetite or taste buds are altered.  An increased appetite can be a sign of hyperthyroidism.  However, an underactive thyroid can mess with your sense of taste and smell.

Your brain feels fuzzy. Sure, that can be caused by sleep deprivation or aging, but cognitive functioning can take a hit when your thyroid is out of whack. 

You’re feeling all fluttery.  That fluttery feeling may be heart palpitations.  It can feel like your heart is actually fluttering or skipping a beat or two, or beating too hard or too quickly. 

Your skin is dry.  Skin that’s dry and itchy can be a symptom of hypothyroidism.  The change in skin texture and appearance is probably due to slowed metabolism.  Nails can also become brittle and may develop ridges.

You have painful extremities or muscles.  Mysterious or sudden tingling or numbness –or actual pain—in your arms, legs, feet, or hands, could be a sign of hypothyroidism. 

You have high blood pressure.  Elevated blood pressure can be a symptom of a thyroid disorder.  Both hyper and hypo could be responsible.  Research is unclear why either type of the disease may cause hypertension.

Your thermostat is on the fritz.  Feeling cold or having chills is associated with hypothyroidism.  Feeling too warm, or sweating profusely is associated with hyperthyroidism. 

You’re hoarse or your neck feels funny.  A change in your voice or a lump in your throat could be a sign of a thyroid disorder. 

Your sleep schedule is messed up.  If you want to sleep all the time, it could be hypothyroidism.  If you can’t sleep, it could be hyperthyroidism. 

You’ve gained weight.  An underactive thyroid can make it almost impossible to lose weight.  On the other end of the scale, a sudden weight loss can signal hyperthyroidism. 

Your hair is thinning or falling out.  Dry, brittle hair that breaks or falls out can be a sign of hypothyroidism Thinning hair on your head only, can be a sign of hyperthyroidism. 

You have high cholesterol.  High levels of LDL cholesterol that has not responded to diet, exercise, or medication have been linked to hypothyroidism. 

Get your thyroid tested.  Untreated hypothyroidism can lead to heart problems, including an enlarged heart and heart failure.  Expect to have to be your own advocate when it comes to your thyroid.  Some doctors may be resistant to a thyroid diagnosis.  The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists narrowed the TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) range for acceptable thyroid function in 2003.  That means more women fall into a range that can be treated.  Find a doctor that treats the person, not just the lab results.  If you feel better at a certain dosage, that should carry as much weight as the lab result. 

At least 30 million Americans have a thyroid disorder and half – 15 million – are silent sufferers who are undiagnosed.  Women are as much as 10 times as likely as men to have a thyroid problem. 

About Cleansing Water, Inc.

Cleansing Water, Inc. is a Warrenton, Virginia home health care agency offering professional geriatric care and serving seniors, individuals recovering from surgery, individuals with long-term disabilities, and other clients throughout Fauquier, Culpeper, Gainesville, Haymarket, Middleburg, Prince William, Rappahannock and other Piedmont Virginia communities. We provide in-home companions, certified nursing assistants, and geriatric care managers to assist with the tasks of daily living, monitor health and medications, and ensure clients are well cared for, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

For more information about Cleansing Water’s short-term and long-term home health care services, Call (540) 341-0212 or our toll-free number, (866) 294-4665, to schedule a consultation and discuss your geriatric care and home health care options. You can also visit for more information.