- Written by Lynn U. Nichols Lynn U. Nichols
Consider a simple test for hypothyroidism Have you been feeling run down lately and you don’t know why? Hypothyroidism creates several vague symptoms that make you want to swap workouts for TV and a warm blanket—especially in cold weather. Hypothyroidism can occur at any age but it’s more common for women in their 50s and beyond. However, it’s not terribly rare for women in their 20s and 30s to develop hypothyroidism, and it’s something to pay attention to because it affects fertility.
The thyroid is the thermostat of your body. It controls energy, metabolism, mood, digestive function and temperature. If you have extra dry skin, often feel cold, tired or constipated, have trouble remembering things, feel depressed, experience muscle cramps, have heavy or painful periods, weight gain or discharge from your breast, it might be hypothyroidism. It can be hard to pinpoint and it’s not something doctors test for regularly at annual exams, so if you have even one or two symptoms, ask to be tested.
The test is a simple blood test that looks at the level of two hormones – TS3 and TS4. A high TSH means you have low thyroid, and a low TSH means you have too much thyroid. It’s good to get a baseline for comparison over the years as sometimes a test comes back in the normal range, but it’s not normal for you.
Why thyroids stop working properly
Some people have full-blown hypothyroidism caused by an autoimmune disorder called Hashimoto’s Disease. Much more common is hypothyroidism due to a thyroid glad that stops producing enough hormones. Doctors don’t really know why the thyroid sometimes stops producing enough hormone. Theories of what causes hypothyroidism include autoimmune disease, an inflamed thyroid gland, a problem with your pituitary gland, and certain medications. Men and kids can have it, too.
Some conditions increase your risk for hypothyroidism. One is diabetes. Another is having any type of autoimmune disease. A third is having had radiation to your chest or neck, or taking radioactive iodine. High cholesterol can also be associated with low thyroid.
If you have hypothyroidism it’s important to get tested because left unchecked it can have serious consequences. According to the Mayo Clinic, untreated hypothyroidism can increase the risk of heart disease, mental health issues, nerve damage to your limbs, and more.
Experiencing miscarriages or having a hard time getting pregnant?
If you are trying to get pregnant and are having difficulty it might be because your thyroid is not working correctly. When thyroid hormones are low they can impair the release of an egg from your ovary and they also can cause miscarriage. While some believe it should be, it’s not a standard test before or during pregnancy. However, it’s one of the first tests done at fertility clinics and can be an inexpensive fix to the problem.
A low thyroid can also affect your baby’s development. Thyroid hormones are essential to healthy brain development. It’s estimated that between 4 percent and 15 percent of pregnant women have hypothyroidism.
The treatment for hypothyroidism is a daily dose of synthetic hormone. It can take some time to get the right medication and right dose, but generally people feel better within a few weeks of starting treatment. It’s important to get rechecked six weeks after starting treatment or switching brands to make sure it’s working properly. The wrong dose can cause heart palpitations or heart failure, so it is important to be precise.
Finally, avoid self-treatment as it can do more harm than good. Hormones are tricky to get right, so it’s best to leave it to an expert. If you’ve been feeling especially tired of late or seem to be extra bothered by the cold, it could be your thyroid. See your doctor and get it checked.