7 July 2009
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that sits at the base of the neck, in front of the windpipe. It is the ‘master controller’ of metabolism.1 Thyroid Federation International
What are thyroid dysfunctions?
If your thyroid is underactive it produces too little thyroid hormone, resulting in a condition called hypothyroidism. People with hypothyroidism use energy more slowly and their metabolism also slows down.2 However, if your thyroid is overactive the gland releases too much thyroid hormone into the bloodstream, this results in a condition called hyperthyroidism which speeds up metabolism.3 Each person’s experience of thyroid dysfunction is unique and not everyone will encounter all the symptoms associated with the condition.
Watch out for…
The two thyroid dysfunctions (hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism) are quite different conditions but in both cases, the thyroid gland can become larger than normal, so that it can be visible or felt under the skin at the front of the neck. Goitre is the medical term for an enlarged thyroid gland.4
The signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism are similar to other common medical problems, so the condition is often overlooked. Symptoms may develop over a long period of time and go unnoticed. Key changes in your body to look out for include:2,5,6,7
• Fatigue, drowsiness and / or weakness
• Cold intolerance (not being able to tolerate the cold like those around you)
• Impaired memory
• Weight gain or increased difficulty losing weight (despite sensible diet and exercise)
• Abnormal menstrual periods and/or fertility problems
• Joint or muscle pain
• Thin and brittle hair or fingernails and/or dry flaky skin
People need to be aware of the signs of hypothyroidism as even mild cases where people may have few or vague symptoms (medically known as subclinical hypothyroidism)8 can, if untreated, lead to more