Why Test Your Thyroid Function?
A thyroid imbalance, such as an overactive or underactive thyroid, can lead to problems with your weight, energy and mood.
Symptoms of an overactive thyroid include weight loss, fatigue, irritability and difficulty sleeping. Whereas, symptoms of an underactive thyroid include weight gain, hair loss, forgetfulness and low mood.
Testing thyroid hormones and antibodies help identify any potential issues with the thyroid gland such as a thyroid imbalance or an autoimmune condition.
Despite a thyroid condition needing medical intervention, there are lifestyle changes you can make to help manage the symptoms and support your wellbeing.
What Are the Symptoms of
An Overactive Thyroid?
The difference between an underactive and an overactive thyroid are the levels of hormones the gland produces. For that reason, the symptoms can differ according to how fast or slow your body’s cells are working.
If you have hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid), then your thyroid is producing too much thyroid hormone and causing your body’s cells to work at a faster rate.
The symptoms of an overactive thyroid, include:
- Feeling nervous, anxious, or irritable
- Mood changes
- Difficulty sleeping
- Muscle weakness
- Sensitivity to heat
The condition can also cause physical symptoms which you or close friends and family may find more noticeable such as:
- Goitre – a large swelling in your neck
- Fast or irregular heartbeat
- Thinning hair or hair loss
- Loose nails
- Twitching or trembling
- Eye problems
- Warm skin
- Excessive sweating
What Are the Symptoms of
An Underactive Thyroid?
An underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism is the most common thyroid disorder. Because your cells are working too slow as a result of too little thyroid hormones being produced, it can cause:
- Feeling tired
- Weight gain
- Dry skin
- Low sex drive
- Sensitivity to cold
- Slow movements and thoughts
- Brittle hair and nails
- Irregular or heavy periods
Thyroid and Menopause
Some of the symptoms associated with thyroid disorders are similar to menopause symptoms. So, it’s common for these symptoms to be diagnosed as menopause or linked to stress.
For example, an underactive thyroid shares many symptoms with the menopause and hypothyroidism is most common in menopausal aged women. It is important to distinguish between the menopause and a thyroid issue or if, indeed, you are experiencing both. It’s particularly important because both can increase the risk of long-term health complications such as heart disease and osteoporosis.
A thyroid check analyses the levels of thyroid hormones in your blood and these can be used to identify thyroid conditions.
“Thyroid disorders are quite common, affecting around 5% of the UK population with women being more prone to thyroid disorders than men. If you are experiencing symptoms of fatigue, mood changes, poor sleep or unexplained weight gain or loss then you may have a thyroid issue. This advanced thyroid test can be easily done at home and will help identify a thyroid disorder. It checks your levels of TSH, T4, T3 as well as thyroid antibodies. High T3 and T4, combined with low levels of TSH are indicative of an overactive thyroid, whereas low levels of T3 and T4 with high levels of TSH are associated with an underactive thyroid. NICE set TSH levels above 10 mU/L as indicative of hypothyroidism.”
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Frequently asked questions
What does the hormone TSH do?
Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) is produced by the pituitary gland and acts on the thyroid to stimulate it to produce the hormones thyroxine and triiodothyronine.
What is an overactive thyroid?
An overactive thyroid, also known as hyperthyroidism, means you have too much thyroid hormone acting on the cells in your body which speeds them up. Their increased function can cause a variety of symptoms, such as anxiety, fast heartbeat, weight loss, sleep disturbances, trembling, and excessive sweating.
What autoimmune conditions can cause thyroid disorders?
Thyroid conditions can be caused by autoimmune diseases where your immune system mistakenly attacks its own cells resulting in an immune response and some unpleasant symptoms.
Graves’ disease, for example, causes hyperthyroidism or an overactive thyroid. Because your immune cells attack the thyroid, it causes it to produce more thyroid hormones than your cells need and speeds up the rate at which they work. Whereas Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune condition that causes an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism). It occurs when your immune system attacks the thyroid causing damage which results in not enough thyroid hormones being produced and slowing down your cells’ metabolism.
What is triiodothyronine?
Triiodothyronine, also known as T3, is a hormone produced by your thyroid and affects nearly all of the processes in the body. It helps to regulate your metabolism, so how fast or
slow your cells work.
What is an underactive thyroid?
An underactive thyroid is also known as hypothyroidism and is caused by a lack of thyroid hormones. Because there aren’t enough thyroid hormones being made, the activity of your cells slows down and causes symptoms such as weight gain, low mood, and forgetfulness.
What are thyroid levels supposed to be?
TSH – 0.27-4.2 mIU/L
Thyroxine (FT4) – 12-22 pmol/L
Triiodothyronine (FT3) – 3.1 – 6.8 pmol/L
Please note reference ranges can vary by lab and analytical process.
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