Symptoms of thyroid disease can reveal themselves in many different ways. Discussing the many presentations of thyroid disease can help individuals recognize when they should have their thyroid hormone levels checked. Thyroid patient advocate, writer, and author, Rachel Hill discusses the ten most surprising thyroid symptoms that she faced as a result of the condition. If you identify with these symptoms, you should request a full thyroid panel run by a medical professional.
Adequate thyroid hormone is required by every cell and every function in the body. Without it, a lot of issues and symptoms can manifest to let us know that something is wrong.
Before I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism (also known as an underactive thyroid) and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, I had a long list of mounting symptoms and complaints.
When I was eventually diagnosed with autoimmune hypothyroidism and before I was on the correct thyroid medication at the correct dosage, I was very surprised to learn that the below symptoms were a result of my thyroid condition.
Looking back at photos before I was properly treated for hypothyroidism, my face looks quite different. Shape and definition had been lost to a certain extent as puffiness took over.
My eyes were sunken in and heavy and I looked very obviously unwell.
When on the T4 medication levothyroxine, this unfortunately only worsened. Once I switched to a natural desiccated thyroid medication, it reversed completely within weeks.
Low thyroid levels can lead to low body temperature, which can then cause fluid retention or bloating, in the form of facial puffiness.
There were several times before being diagnosed and before being optimally medicated, that I wondered if I was going crazy.
Brain fog is described as feelings of mental confusion or lack of mental clarity. The phrase comes from the feeling of a fog that reduces your ability to think clearly. It can feel like a mental block and can cause a person to become forgetful, detached and discouraged and even depressed as a knock on, or secondary, effect.
I’ve heard from many thyroid patients who even wonder if they have early onset dementia, before being diagnosed. How scary is that?
At my worst point, I could get to midday and completely forget everything I had done up to that point, finding it impossible to recall the last few hours.
Heavy fatigue and aches and pains are common and somewhat obvious symptoms of hypothyroidism, but poor stamina and long recovery periods may not be common to all.
I developed a major intolerance to exercise and on the odd day where I could exercise, be it walking home from work, walking a friend’s dog or even just doing housework, I soon realized that my body took much longer than it used to to recover.
Even holding a friend’s baby for ten minutes would result in my arm aching for days afterwards!
I didn’t realize that others experienced this one until a short time ago.
When I was at my most unwell with thyroid disease, I would wake in the morning to sore soles of my feet and had to tiptoe to the bathroom when I first got up.
This is also known as plantar fasciitis.
Usually resolving within ten minutes or so of being awake, this symptom was particularly peculiar. I still experience this one now if I go through a flare up of my thyroid condition.
How on earth can a gland in your neck cause issues with your digestion?!
Acid reflux is another very common complaint, but many people, like myself, are surprised to learn about the connection between hypothyroidism and this annoying issue.
Low levels of stomach acid can lead to your doctor diagnosing you with gastritis. Like me, doctors put most thyroid patients with these problems on proton pump inhibitor (PPI) medications like omeprazole, which are acid suppressors, when we already have low levels of stomach acid.
So, these mask the symptoms and problem, which just tends to make things worse. When I optimized my thyroid medication, the acid reflux resolved.
Depression with hypothyroidism is quite well recognized due to bodily processes slowing down and the effects that this can have on mental health. However, the worsening of my anxiety disorder was surprising.
Cold intolerance or feeling cold often is commonly cited as a typical symptom of hypothyroidism, but how about heat intolerance or feeling waves of increased body temperature?
I distinctly remember walking to work in December and stripping off layers as I was dripping in sweat. My coat, gloves, scarf and cardigan all came off until I was bare armed and looking somewhat crazy on a frosty December morning!
This was six months into being on levothyroxine, before I switched thyroid medication, where it resolved. Heat intolerance and hot flashes are very often reported among thyroid patients.
Unlike many of the other symptoms on this list, the intensely itchy scalp which inevitably led to being very sore, actually appeared after my switch to natural desiccated thyroid (NDT) medication.
Before I was on the correct dose, this change in medication (perhaps the introduction of T3) made me scratch my head constantly. It soon settled down after some adjustments in dosage and a focus on my gut health was implemented.
Excruciatingly painful cramping in my calves for years were one of the many signs of an impending thyroid condition.
I would wake up in the middle of the night to one of my calves seizing up and cramping stiffly, which affected my ability to keep up with my running schedule, as the pain would last for a couple of weeks. I only stopped having them once I was put on thyroid medication.
Hypothyroidism is a hormonal disorder, so it’s not hugely surprising that it can contribute to other hormonal imbalances. However, my experiences with cystic acne as an adult didn’t present themselves until I had been on NDT medication for close to six months.
With the help of my functional medicine practitioner, I was able to trace the acne back to coming off the combined contraceptive pill.
I came off of it in December, after reading about how it can worsen hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s, and by May, my skin had broken out in so much cystic acne that I looked like a teenager again!
It turns out that I had had a sex hormone imbalance in the form of estrogen dominance before going on the pill at sixteen-years-old. The birth control pill masked it and then coming off the pill brought it back out again.
It ties in to hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s since any hormone that is part of the endocrine system has the ability to impact other hormones. Estrogen dominance and hypothyroidism often go hand-in-hand.Once I was feeling very well and optimally treated for my thyroid condition, this was once again, a symptom that improved hugely!
TThese were only my most surprising thyroid symptoms and you might have other symptoms that surprise you, too. There are other especially common symptoms and we do know that thyroid symptoms can vary from individual to individual and that symptoms can vary in degree and intensity.
No two patients are alike and thyroid symptoms can affect any part of the body.
So, what were some of your most surprising thyroid symptoms, looking back? Or, do you need resolution of symptoms that still might be thyroid-related?
If you have continued unexplained symptoms and need a second opinion, please check out ThyroidChange’s Find a Doctor page and the online consults with their Telemedicine page that contain functional medicine clinics who have specialize in thyroid care.
You can also order thyroid labs yourself through LetsGetChecked to assess how your thyroid is functioning and to determine if there is need for further treatment. Symptoms don’t have to be the result of just “getting older”. It may very well be your thyroid.
Note: This page may contain affiliate links and ThyroidChange may earn a small commission for reviews on comprehensive thyroid care.
Rachel Hill is a regular ThyroidChange contributor, as well as a highly ranked thyroid patient advocate, writer, and author who created the award-winning advocacy and website The Invisible Hypothyroidism. Diagnosed with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, she talks about what it is like to have these conditions and demonstrates her passion by helping those with hypothyroidism and by giving them a voice. Rachel is well recognized as a trusted and useful contributor to the greater thyroid community.
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