24 October 2018 | Dr Kim Cheah (MBBS FRCPA)

8 reasons to get your thyroid checked

Thyroid issues affect 1 in 7 Australians

A surprising 1 in 7 Australians are affected by some form of thyroid disorder according to the Australian Thyroid Foundation, and as many as half may not even realise it. Women are also 10 times more likely than men to experience thyroid issues.

The thyroid regulates vital body functions

The thyroid gland is a small butterfly-shaped gland in the front of the neck which uses iodine to produce hormones which control your metabolism. These hormones regulate vital body functions and how fast or slow your brain, heart, muscles, liver, and other parts of your body work. Every cell in the body depends on thyroid hormones to convert oxygen and calories into energy.

If you have a thyroid issue, you probably won't feel great

Your thyroid function is intricately connected with every system in your body, so if your thyroid isn’t working properly you most likely won’t feel great. Most people aren’t born with a thyroid disorder, it’s something that typically presents later in life. In fact if you're a woman over 35 your odds of a thyroid disorder increase significantly.

What causes your thyroid to go awry isn’t clear - it could be a result of genetics, autoimmune disease, pregnancy, stress, nutritional deficiencies, or toxins in the environment. Symptoms of a thyroid disorder are many and varied due to the extensive reach of thyroid hormones across the body.

Symptoms of a thyroid disorder are many and varied

Most thyroid imbalances are a result of an under-active or hypothyroid, but some are related to an over-active or hyperthyroid, and the symptoms can be all too familiar.

  1. Your feel tired all the time You can feel tired for a number of reasons, but if you’re constantly dragging despite getting 8 hrs of sleep and can't get through your day without coffee, this could be a sign of a hypothyroid.

  2. That unexplained weight gain The thyroid controls your metabolism so it's not surprising it can affect your weight. People with an over-active or hyperthyroid often have higher metabolic rates meaning they may be burning calories faster and lose weight. Conversely people with an under-active thyroid typically experience weight gain despite exercising and not eating more.

  3. Unpredictable bowels Your thyroid gland controls your bowel function, so not surprisingly an under-active thyroid condition can leave you feeling bloated and constipated, or a hyperthyroid can leave you with the opposite issue.

  4. Dry skin and thinning hair Hypothyroidism can leave your skin dry and scaly and your nails brittle and with ridges. Dry, brittle hair that breaks or falls out can also be a sign of an under-active thyroid, as too little thyroid hormone disrupts your hair growth cycle and can also cause excessive hair loss.

  5. Mood swings, depression or anxiety If you feel depressed or anxious, your thyroid should be one of the first areas to investigate. A hypothyroid is typically associated with depression, while a hyperthyroid is more commonly associated with anxiety or panic attacks.

  6. Menstrual and fertility issues Our hormones are intricately connected, and a thyroid imbalance frequently throws other hormones out of rhythm. An under-active thyroid is often the cause of heavier, more frequent and more painful periods, while shorter, lighter or infrequent menstruation can be associated with hyperthyroidism. Infertility is also commonly associated with undiagnosed thyroid conditions, and both an over or under-active thyroid can interfere with ovulation.

  7. Cold hands and feet If you feel cold when others don’t, this could be a sign of hypothyroidism. Conversely an over-active thyroid can leave you feeling overheated and sweaty.

  8. The fuzzies A thyroid imbalance can affect your concentration and leave you struggling to recall events. Too much thyroid hormone can cause difficulty concentrating and too little may cause forgetfulness and general brain fog.

Thyroid disorders are often misdiagnosed

Australians may not be so proactive in recognising and treating thyroid disorders as compared with other parts of the developed world – in part because private blood testing and the ability to take control of your health data is a relatively new thing in this country. Sadly thyroid issues often go under the radar and are confused with other hormonal disorders such as menopause, psychological disorders like depression, or are even explained away by a stressful lifestyle or getting older.

Find out it you have a thyroid issue

The truth is if you feel that something’s wrong, but you can’t put finger on what, it could be a thyroid issue. The good news is that a thyroid imbalance can be relatively straightforward to correct, the challenge until now has been finding out that you have one. Find out more here.

Try i-screen's Thyroid Check
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Dr Kim Cheah (MBBS FRCPA)
Dr Cheah is a director and co-founder of i-screen. Dr Cheah studied at the University of Western Australia and holds a Bachelors of Medicine and Surgery, and also a fellowship to the Royal College of Pathologists Australasia. Dr Cheah is passionate about Australia’s preventive health agenda and empowering individuals to take control of their health data.
References
  • https://www.thyroidfoundation.org.au/
  • Clare Bayram, Lisa Valenti, Helena Britt. Orders for thyroid function tests, Changes over 10 years. Australian Family Physician Volume 41, No.8, August 2012
  • Michelle So, Richard J MacIsaac, Mathis Grossmann. Hypothyroidism, Investigation and management. Australian Family Physician Volume 41, No.8, August 2012
  • Kiernan Hughes, Creswell Eastman. Goitre Causes, investigation and management. Australian Family Physician Volume 41, No.8, August 2012
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