Dry Skin, Hair Loss, Mood Swings: Know The Common Signs And Symptoms Of Hypothyroidism

Dry Skin, Hair Loss, Mood Swings: Know The Common Signs And Symptoms Of Hypothyroidism

Written by Dr Priyamvada Tyagi

Experiencing excessive hair loss? Feeling tired and uneasy or gaining weight despite following a healthy lifestyle? It might be time to get your thyroid levels checked.

Nearly 1 in 10 people in India suffer from a thyroid problem. Yet, it is a condition which often goes undiagnosed or untreated due to a lack of awareness. In fact, most people do not know about their thyroid condition unless they get specifically tested for it.

The thyroid gland, a butterfly-shaped organ, resting at the interior part of the neck is seemingly tiny but is critical to the core functions of our body. It produces the important triiodothyronine (T3) and tetraiodothyronine (T4) hormones under the influence of the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) produced by the pituitary gland. The thyroid hormones influence how fast energy is produced or used by the body, and hence, impact important functions such as our heart rate, breathing, muscular function, reproduction, digestion, mood, and functioning of the brain.  

Deficiency of the thyroid hormones leads to hypothyroidism. It can be either primary or secondary. Primary hypothyroidism occurs when the functioning of the thyroid gland is affected by autoimmunity or medical interventions (e.g. surgery, radiation). Secondary hypothyroidism takes place due to reduced activity of other glands such as the pituitary. 

Hypothyroidism is a lifelong condition and inadequate secretion of hormones can dysregulate metabolic function and lead to several symptoms like decreased energy levels, excessive hair loss and weight gain. Other early signs of hypothyroidism can include:

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-Dryness of skin and brittle nails

-Muscle weakness

-Brain fog and poor concentration levels

-Mood swings

-Decline in gut health, constipation

-Facial puffiness and swelling

-Menstrual irregularities and fertility issues

-Insomnia or troubled sleeping patterns

Symptoms of a thyroid disorder can manifest differently in people. It can cause no symptoms as it is slowly progressive or cause complications in some cases. Majorly, these symptoms tend to be non-specific and overlap with other conditions, which makes it difficult for an individual to detect them in time by consulting a doctor. This is one of the reasons it is important to check your thyroid levels regularly.Hypothyroidism is highly prevalent in India, and more commonly reported amongst women. Yet, a majority of women remain clueless about the condition and do not get screened in time. Since this condition can impact a woman at all stages of life, it is advisable for women to monitor their thyroid health regularly in consultation with their doctor.

Screening And Treatment Of Hypothyroidism

Early detection is key to effective management and doctors usually advise a comprehensive check-up. While a physical check-up can identify visible symptoms like an enlarged thyroid gland, abnormal reflexes, swelling, discolouration in the skin or a change in body temperature, specific blood tests measure the levels of TSH and T4. High TSH levels with low or normal T4 levels reflect hypothyroidism.

Managing Hypothyroidism

It is a common misconception that thyroid disorders are difficult to treat.  One can lead a normal and healthy life after detection, as oral medications can help control abnormalities and related symptoms. These medicines contain a synthetic version of the thyroid hormone and help in the proper functioning of the gland. 

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Besides this, patients are often advised to avoid certain foods that contain ‘goitrogens’ such as soy-based products, tofu, excess tea or caffeine, alcohol, and certain fruits to avoid exacerbation of the symptoms. However, food options like eggs, meat, gluten-free grains and seeds, iodised salts, and green veggies are potent and beneficial in managing hypothyroidism. Diet, exercise, and lifestyle modifications are also recommended.

Since hypothyroidism develops slowly, one may not observe the signs or symptoms for months or years together. Therefore, it becomes vital to screen for thyroid function, preferably once every year, stay alert to warning signs and consult the doctor in order to manage hypothyroidism effectively.

The author is DM Endocrinology, MD, Consultant Endocrinologist, Max Patparganj, Sushrut Healthcare and Hormone India, Noida.

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