Disease - Other

How to tell if you have a Thyroid Problem

Erich Rosenberger M.D.'s image for:
"How to tell if you have a Thyroid Problem"
Image by: 

The thyroid is a small organ located in the front of your neck. It is an important gland in the production of hormones that regulate many elements of your metabolism. Thyroid hormones regulate the use of energy by your body. The more thyroid hormone you have, the faster your metabolism goes. There are several types of thyroid hormones, and the system by which they are controlled is complex.

Your body aims to have just the proper amount of thyroid hormones. Too much or too little you through your body's balance out ofwack. Overproduction of thyroid hormones is called hyperthyroidism . Too little production of thyroid is known as hypothyroidism. Symptoms of each problem are distinct and easy to differentiate. Your doctor can run simple blood tests and several other types of scans and tests to determine the status of your thyroid hormone levels as well.

The causes and conditions that can lead to these problems are numerous. In this article, I am focusing on the symptoms, not the causes. Only working with your doctor can you determine the specific cause of your thyroid problem. Following is a guide to help you tell if you have a thyroid problem that needs further investigation.


Lack of sufficient thyroid production is known as hypothyroidism. People with this problem have a variety of symptoms including: constipation, fatigue and exhaustion, and poor tolerance to cold temperatures. It is common to loose your appetite. Weight gain is common as your body is not using as much energy as it would with normal thyroid levels.

It is also common to see hair loss and very dry skin, especially once your thyroid levels have been too low for a long time. Eyes will often become puffy and your voice can become deeper and coarse. Depression is not uncommon with a lack of thyroid.

Infants and children can also suffer from a lack of thyroid and will have similar symptoms, although they often can become jaundiced as well. This is a yellowing of the skin and is more common in very young infants.


Not surprisingly, many of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism are the opposite of hypothyroidism. In these cases, a person has too much thyroid hormone circulating in their body. The most common symptoms include: tremors in the hands, nervousness, intolerance to heat and warmth, and frequent sweating.

It is common to have some insomnia as your increased metabolism will not let you relax and get to sleep. Frequent bowel movements are common as well. Appetite is commonly increased, but not always. Weight loss is common, even if you are eating more. Some people will report chest pain and pain in their joints as well.

If you suspect that you have one or more of these symptoms for either condition, your doctor has several tests available to help determine the potential cause of your thyroid problem. The first and easiest test is a simple blood test. Your doctor will test for several factors related to your thyroid function, including TSH, T4, and T3. TSH receptor antibodies and antithyroid antibodies are two other factors that can be tested for which aid in the diagnosis of a thyroid problem.

If your doctor wants to go beyond blood tests there are several other investigations that can be done. The first is an ultrasound of the thyroid gland. This is a test similar to the one done to look at a fetus - it uses high frequency sound to take a "picture" of the thyroid gland.

A thyroid scan is a test where a small amount of iodine is injected in to your body. An x-ray is then taken of the neck to look for how well the gland is using the iodine. In essence, this test is looking at how well the thyroid gland is working.

The other commonly done test to look at the thyroid is a fine-needle aspiration, or FNA. For this the doctor inserts a very thin needle in to the thyroid gland and takes a tissue sample that can be tested for potential problems.

Thyroid problems can have a horrible impact on your quality of life. If you suspect you may have problems, talk to your doctor and get it looked in to.

More about this author: Erich Rosenberger M.D.

From Around the Web