Thyroid disease in Boise is common, affecting approximately 12 percent of Treasure Valley residents.
Yet in spite of its prevalence it’s a largely misunderstood disease – probably because there is such a variety of possible symptoms.
The Thyroid’s Role in Body Functions
The thyroid plays a crucial role in the human body, one that affects every tissue and organ.
This tiny, butterfly-shaped gland, located in the back of the throat, produces hormones that are responsible for controlling metabolism – a process that involves converting food to energy.
It is essential to maintaining life for all living organisms.
Thyroid diseases can affect hormone production, leading to health complications.
When not enough thyroid hormone is produced metabolism slows, leading to symptoms such as:
- Weight gain
Too much thyroid hormone has the opposite effect;
- Metabolism speeds up
- Resulting in weight loss
- Increased heart rate
- Tremors and more
Non-Hormonal Thyroid Diseases
Not all thyroid diseases involve hormone production.
Lumps that form on the thyroid gland are called nodules; though rarely serious, they can grow large enough to press against the windpipe, causing shortness of breath.
Goiter, an abnormally large thyroid gland, may cause swallowing and breathing difficulties.
There are several types of thyroid cancer as well, though most are benign and easily treatable.
Surprising Thyroid Symptoms
Thyroid diseases can lead to a wide variety of symptoms, some of which might surprise you. Possible side effects include:
- Throat constriction. Inflammation of the thyroid gland may cause pain and swelling; thyroiditis and goiter can both cause tightness in the throat.
- Hair loss. Both hypothyroidism (too little hormone) and hyperthyroidism (excess hormone) are known to cause hair loss that typically occurs evenly across the scalp. Some thyroid medications also contribute to hair loss.
- Anxiety. The faster heart rate associated with hyperthyroidism can cause high blood pressure, heart palpitations, insomnia and a reduced appetite – all symptoms of anxiety. Some patients even experience panic attacks.
- Fatigue. Individuals with hypothyroidism often report fatigue. Too little thyroid hormone depletes your energy, making it harder to complete even simple activities.
- Frozen shoulder. Also known as adhesive capsulitis, this condition causes pain and stiffness in the shoulder and is often a complication of endocrine conditions such as thyroid disease.
- Cognitive dysfunction. A lack of thyroid hormone may cause “brain fog” characterized by concentration difficulties, reduced mental alertness and occasional memory lapses.
- Persistent cough. Thyroid nodules may cause a constant or lingering cough. They can also cause throat pain and swallowing difficulties.
- Facial flushing. The increased blood flow associated with hyperthyroidism may cause the face to flush and the palms to turn red. Hypothyroidism produces the opposite effect; people with this condition often appear pale.
- Heart problems. Excess or inadequate thyroid hormone both affect heart rate; hypothyroidism slows down the heart and may raise blood pressure and cholesterol levels, while hyperthyroidism speeds up the heart, increasing the odds of atrial fibrillilation, chest pain and angina.
- Skin problems. People with hypothyroidism may have pale, dry and cool skin, as well as itchiness and flaking. Alternatively, they might experience red or swollen skin, puffiness and velvety dark coloring in skinfolds. Hyperthyroidism patients frequently report moist, warm skin and redness on the face and palms. Thinning skin is common, too.
Additional symptoms of thyroid disease include:
- Mood swings
- Fertility problems
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Inability to regulate body temperature
- Muscle weakness
- Eye pain and pressure
- Shortness of breath
- Slow-healing wounds.
For more information on thyroid disease and its possible side effects, schedule a conversation with a Boise ENT specialist.