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If you've been feeling under the weather for a while, you probably blame a "virus", one of those vague conditions that causes weeks or months of misery. However, if you have the symptoms below, it's possible you have an often-treatable thyroid problem.

Have you been feeling fatigued recently? You just don't feel like getting out of bed? Perhaps you have a sore throat and a tickly cough, or are you losing your voice? Do you notice chills, or a touch of temperature. Or maybe you've just been feeling a bit "blah" recently. A bit out-of-sorts. It's a virus, isn't it? One of life's little nuisances that comes out of nowhere and stays, well, for however long it feels like staying.

Or maybe, you don't feel like you have a virus? Maybe you feel like you might be losing your mind. All hyper and anxious for no reason. Mind racing at night. Or, the other way, depressed and irritable? Every little thing gets you down, every little mishap is a tragedy.

Well, before you decide your problem is nothing more than a virus (or before you book yourself in with an expensive psychiatrist), you might want to have your thyroid hormone checked. Because, as we'll discover, your thyroid can cause all kinds of symptoms that you might not have considered.

First, what is the Thyroid?

The Thyroid is a gland that's found in the neck. It releases two hormones that are necessary to be healthy: thyroxine (T3) and trilodythyronine (T4). T4 is used by the body to make T3. A certain amount of T3 is also secreted directly by the body. The body uses T3 (both the kind the body secretes, and the type it makes with T4) to regulate the speed at which your cells work. Too much T3 and your cells work too quickly; too little, and they don't work quickly enough, leading to disorders with the Thyroid.

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is the most common thyroid problem. Hypothyroidism is an underactive thyroid and means that enough thyroxine (T3) is not being produced. It's very easily treatable, using Levothyroxine, an artificial hormone replacement medication that imitates thyroxine in the body and is taken once a day.

There are many symptoms of hypothyroidism, including many that you may not realise are associated with hypothyroidism.

The most common symptoms include:

  • tiredness,
  • weight gain, 
  • constipation,
  • depression,
  • easily upset
  • anxiety,
  • slow movements and reflexes, poor concentration, mental sluggishness, mental confusion, 
  • dry and scaly skin,
  • carpal tunnel syndrome (causing pain, and a tingling sensation in the hands or fingers),
  • irregular periods or absent periods,
  • muscle aches and weakness
  • difficulty swallowing, a sensation of there being a lump in the throat.
  • hair loss (body and head),
  • sore throat,
  • dizziness

These signs often develop slowly, and may not be immediately obvious. It's also worth noting that not everyone with hypothyroidism will have all or even most of these symptoms. Many, however, will feel tired, so that's always a sign worth reporting to your doctor, and be persistent. People may also experience different symptoms in different stages of life. Children may experience stunted growth, teens may go into earlier puberty. Meanwhile, older people are more likely to develop depression and memory problems.

If you think you may have an underactive thyroid, even if your symptoms are not very severe, you must be checked and treated. Hypothyroidism left untreated will lead to a hoarse, low-pitched voice (some women have even reported their voice sounding "masculine" following delays in treatment), a puffy face, anaemia, absent or partially-missing eyebrows, and hearing loss.

This is all very preventable, so do seek treatment.

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