January is Thyroid Awareness Month. In this article, Vancouver family physician, Dr. Ali Ghahary, shares a more in-depth look at both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
Hypothyroidism (an under-active thyroid) occurs when your body is unable to produce enough hormones. This results in your body’s metabolism slowing down and can lead to weight gain, which is a very common symptom of hypothyroidism along with other weight-related issues, such as the inability to lose weight and the accumulation of abdominal fluid (also known as ascites.) Individuals with hypothyroidism can also experience extreme fatigue, have an inability to concentrate, have trouble with body temperature (such as feeling cold all the time or having night sweats), slow reflexes, a compromised immune system, frequent infections (i.e. recurrent sinus, ear, throat, skin, respiratory and urinary tract infections), difficulty swallowing, pelvic inflammatory disease, celiac disease, a higher risk of developing type I and type II diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, tinnitus, vision problems and dry eye, as well as loss of hair, and even depression. These are just some of the many symptoms and health conditions that can be associated with hypothyroidism. You can find a complete list of the more than 300+ symptoms by clicking here.
When it comes to hyperthyroidism (over-active thyroid), think of it as a fast moving car. Unlike hypothyroidism, those with hyperthyroidism tend to have much quicker metabolism. This means you may notice weight loss and experience symptoms such as sweating, insomnia, forgetfulness, heart palpitations, anxiety, irritability, and menstrual problems.
Leaving both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism untreated can result in the worsening of any of these symptoms as well as other health complications.
To determine whether or not you have thyroid disease, Dr. Ali Ghahary suggests patients see their family physician for regular check-ups. Diagnosing things like thyroid disease if often based on the symptoms you’re experiencing. Dr. Ali Ghahary will also often send patients for routine blood testing as part of an annual check-up to ensure their TSH levels are where they need to be. If they’re low, this generally means that you have an under-active thyroid; if they’re high, this means your thyroid is over-active.
Whether you have an under-active or over-active thyroid, you need to treat the condition with medication to get your thyroid levels back to normal. Once on thyroid replacement therapy, regular blood tests will follow, as the dose of your medication may also need to be adjusted from time to time. There are also certain lifestyle changes you can make – such as eating healthy and getting regular exercise.