CLEVELAND – It can be frustrating to not feel like yourself, but not be able to pinpoint the problem.
According to Cleveland Clinic’s Mary Vouyiouklis Kellis, M.D., thyroid issues can produce a variety of non-specific symptoms that can make it difficult to zero in on what’s behind them.
She said for some people, feelings of temperature intolerance, changes in mood, weight and energy could actually be the result of an underactive or overactive thyroid.
Many people think that thyroid dysfunction is a female-only problem, but Dr. Vouyiouklis Kellis said many men are surprised to learn that it can happen to them too.
“While women are eight times more likely than men to have a thyroid condition, men can also have thyroid conditions, especially if they have a family history,” she said. “With men you can see problems in changes in libido, or erectile dysfunction, those could be some indications that there is a thyroid issue.”
For those with an underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism, Dr. Vouyiouklis Kellis said everything slows down, leaving people with symptoms like weight gain or swelling, decreased mood, changes in memory, and constipation.
With an overactive thyroid or hyperthyroidism, people tend to experience heart palpitations, anxiety, increased nervousness, insomnia, diarrhea, weight loss or hair loss.
Dr. Vouyiouklis Kellis said a thyroid examination involves checking the throat for nodules. If lumps or bumps are found, further testing is done via a blood sample and, if necessary, a thyroid ultrasound may be done.
Typical treatment includes thyroid hormone replacement for those with an underactive thyroid or anti-thyroid hormone treatment for those with an overactive thyroid, among other therapies.
Dr. Vouyiouklis Kellis said it’s common for thyroid dysfunction to cause a change in cholesterol, so it’s worth considering having thyroid function tested if a person’s cholesterol numbers seem higher than what they should be.
“If, for example, you have underactive thyroid, you may see changes in your LDL cholesterol – which is bad cholesterol,” she said. “You can see those rise, and your elevated total cholesterol can also be high as a result.”
Dr. Vouyiouklis Kellis said thyroid dysfunction is usually hereditary, so people are more likely to have it if it runs in the family. It’s also the most common auto-immune condition and can make a person more likely to have celiac disease or other autoimmune disorders.
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