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5 Early Signs of Hypothyroidism in Women

Most people overlook their thyroid until it causes alarming symptoms. Even then, it’s easy to miss the signs. For example, when hypothyroidism hits, slowing the production of essential thyroid hormones, the warning signs can be subtle, and you may ignore them. 

One out of every 300 Americans has an underactive thyroid. Though men and women can both experience hypothyroidism, it affects women 8-9 times more frequently.  

Dr. James Lee at Woodstock Family Practice & Urgent Care in Woodstock, Georgia, understands the importance of a healthy thyroid and includes diagnostic testing for thyroid problems in our comprehensive women’s health services. 

Here, he guides you through identifying five early signs of hypothyroidism that women should never ignore.

Hypothyroidism 101

A well-functioning thyroid gland is essential for maintaining your body’s metabolism and energy levels. When it overperforms (hyperthyroidism) or underperforms (hypothyroidism), it disrupts these fundamental processes.

Hypothyroidism occurs when your thyroid gland doesn't produce enough hormones, which can lead to a range of mild-to-severe symptoms. Because it’s easy to dismiss these early indicators as normal aspects of a busy life, they often go unrecognized and undiagnosed. 

Here are some telltale signs of hypothyroidism.

Sign 1: Fatigue and weakness

Hypothyroidism gives you an unrelenting sense of weariness or fatigue. Even if you sleep for hours, you still feel tired when you wake up. In contrast to occasional tiredness, fatigue associated with hypothyroidism tends to be persistent and unyielding.

Why it happens

The thyroid hormone plays a crucial role in energy production. When you have insufficient levels, your body’s processes naturally slow down, and you feel the effects as a general lack of energy.

Coping strategies

Regular, low-impact physical activity, a balanced diet, and good sleep hygiene effectively manage fatigue. Engaging in relaxation techniques can also lessen stress, a known energy-zapper.

Sign 2: Weight gain

For some women, unexplained weight gain is one of the most troubling hypothyroidism symptoms. Even when you’re carefully watching your diet and exercising, the numbers on the scale might continue to rise.

The hypothyroidism double whammy

Hypothyroidism causes your metabolism to slow down while simultaneously increasing your appetite. This can lead to unintentional overeating, complicating your efforts to lose weight or keep it off.

Lifestyle adjustments

Incorporate regular, consistent exercise into your weekly routine, focusing on cardiovascular health and muscle strength. 

However, hypothyroidism often trumps a healthy diet and lifestyle, so you may need extra help. Adopting a diet rich in essential nutrients, particularly iodine, selenium, and zinc, can support your thyroid function.

Sign 3: Hair loss and changes

Thinning hair, particularly at the outer edge of the eyebrows, and a change in hair texture (often becoming coarse, dry, and brittle) can be troublesome signs of hypothyroidism.

How hypothyroidism affects your hair

Since your hair reflects your overall health, its appearance can indicate underlying medical conditions. Hypothyroidism can influence the growth cycle of hair, causing some follicles to linger in the resting phase longer than usual.

Hypothyroid hair care tips

Support your hair health by using gentle shampoos suitable for your hair type. Decrease your use of heat and chemical treatments, and ensure you get an adequate supply of nutrients essential for healthy hair, like protein, biotin, and iron.

Sign 4: Mood swings and depression

In addition to a foggy brain — a term used to describe difficulty with cognitive tasks, such as memory and thinking — hypothyroidism frequently brings on emotional symptoms.

Brain fog

Brain fog isn’t your typical forgetfulness but rather a persistent and often debilitating mental haze. It can impact your concentration, short-term memory, and ability to multitask effectively.

Emotional resilience

Incorporate activities that promote mental and emotional well-being into your life, such as mindfulness practice, regular exercise, and getting plenty of sunlight, laughter, and social interaction, which trigger feel-good hormones and neurotransmitters.

Sign 5: Irregular menstruation

Hypothyroidism can cause menstrual changes, but not all menstrual changes indicate hypothyroidism. When hypothyroidism is the culprit, you may have heavier or more frequent periods than usual or develop polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

How hypothyroidism affects your period

The interaction between the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and thyroid hormones regulates your menstrual cycle. A malfunctioning thyroid gland disrupts this balance, leading to irregularities.

What to do when your period acts up

If you notice significant changes in your menstrual cycle, discuss it with Dr. Lee. Irregular periods can indicate an array of health problems, including hypothyroidism. Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent complications and make your monthly cycle more predictable.

Equipped with this knowledge of hypothyroidism, you can be proactive about your health. However, these signs alone aren’t enough for a hypothyroidism diagnosis. Dr. Lee tests your blood to reach a definitive conclusion.

If you recognize any of these signs, the best course of action is to schedule an appointment with Dr. Lee at Woodstock Family Practice & Urgent Care.  Book online or call today.

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