Signs Your Thyroid is Under-performing
Ray Smith
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2023

Signs Your Thyroid is Under-performing

For one of the smallest organs in the human body, the thyroid gland sure has a lot of impact.

Located at the front of your neck, this small butterfly-shaped organ produces a thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) that regulates the body’s metabolism—the rate at which your body produces energy and oxygen. Just how well the thyroid does—or doesn’t—produce TSH affects every cell, tissue, and organ, and can have a serious impact on critical bodily functions including heart rate, cholesterol levels, mood, bone density, and body weight. 

One of the most common thyroid problems experienced by people of all ages and genders is hypothyroidism. Sometimes referred to as an underactive thyroid, this disease results when the thyroid doesn’t produce enough TSH.

Without enough TSH, every system in the body slows down, leading to a variety of potential symptoms including:


  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Sensitivity to the cold
  • Dry skin
  • Coarse and/or thinning hair
  • Muscle weakness
  • A puffy face
  • Memory problems
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Constipation
  • Elevated cholesterol levels
  • Hoarseness or a raspy voice
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Heavy or irregular menstrual cycles
  • An enlarged thyroid (goiter)

Because the disease can develop over months or even years, symptoms are often hard to pick up on. Many patients mistakenly attribute fatigue, weight gain, and other symptoms to aging or other factors and unnecessarily delay treatment.

NOTE: If you’re experiencing two or more of these symptoms, reach out to your doctor who may recommend testing.

Testing for hypothyroidism is a simple matter of doing a blood draw to check the TSH levels. In some cases, your doctor may request imaging tests, such as an ultrasound or a thyroid scan.

If you are diagnosed with hypothyroidism, your treatment may consist of a daily thyroid hormone in the form of a pill. Additional blood tests may be taken a few months after you begin treatment to check your TSH level and your dosage may be adjusted to achieve the right level. Getting your TSH levels tuned in just right will allow your bodily systems to once again function properly and your symptoms will resolve.

For the majority of patients diagnosed with hypothyroidism, daily hormone pills are a necessity for the remainder of their lifetime and annual blood tests will be taken to ensure TSH levels are correct.

While anyone can develop hypothyroidism, there are certain factors that increase your risk. These include:

  • A family history of thyroid disease
  • Certain medical conditions including Type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, pernicious anemia, and autoimmune diseases including lupus and Hashimoto’s Disease
  • Use of medication high in iodine 
  • Being over age 60
  • Being female
  • A previous thyroid condition or cancer 

Again, if you’re experiencing two of more symptoms of hypothyroidism—and especially if you have any of the noted risk factors—contact your doctor to schedule a visit.

Amy Freeth, MD is an endocrinologist at SVMC Multispecialty.


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