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Thyroid Test - What Does It Mean and What Can It Tell Me?

The thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland located in the neck and plays a crucial role in the body's metabolism. It produces hormones that help regulate heart rate, body temperature, and energy levels. When the thyroid doesn't function properly, it can lead to a range of health issues. Here's what you need to know about thyroid disorders and home tests to check thyroid function.

What Is the Function of the Thyroid?

The thyroid is responsible for producing hormones that help regulate the body's metabolism. When the thyroid functions correctly, it helps maintain a normal metabolism.

Hyperthyroidism – Overproduction

It's called hyperthyroidism when the thyroid produces too many hormones. This can cause a range of symptoms, including weight loss, palpitations, and anxiety. In severe cases, it can lead to a dangerous condition called thyroid storm.

Hypothyroidism – Underproduction

Hypothyroidism means the thyroid produces too little thyroid hormone. This can cause a variety of symptoms, including fatigue, weight gain, and depression. In severe cases, it can lead to a life-threatening condition called myxedema coma.

Imbalanced Hormone Production

It's when the balance of hormones is disrupted that various symptoms can appear.

Symptoms of Thyroid Problems

What complicates the symptom picture of thyroid dysfunction is that the problems can be confused with menopausal symptoms, chronic fatigue syndrome, or depression.

Symptoms of thyroid dysfunction can vary depending on whether the thyroid is overactive or underactive. Here are some common symptoms of thyroid dysfunction:

  • Palpitations
  • Weight loss
  • Anxiety
  • Tremors
  • Increased sweating
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Restlessness
  • Diarrhea
  • Hair loss
  • Irregular menstrual periods

Common Psychological Symptoms

If you have hyperthyroidism, psychological symptoms are common, but these functions can be affected by thyroid dysfunction even if you don't have hyperthyroidism. Thyroid disorders can also cause a range of psychological symptoms, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Mood swings
  • Nervousness

Hyperthyroidism - What's Behind It?

Hyperthyroidism can be caused by several factors, including:

  • Graves' disease: an autoimmune disease that causes the thyroid to produce too much hormone
  • Toxic adenoma: a nodule in the thyroid that produces too much hormone
  • Subacute thyroiditis: inflammation of the thyroid

Hypothyroidism - What's Behind It?

Hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid, is a common condition that primarily affects women. The condition involves the thyroid producing too little of the hormones T3 and T4. This can lead to a range of symptoms, including fatigue, weight gain, and depression.

Examples of Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

  • Dry and brittle skin and hair
  • Difficulty concentrating and memory problems
  • Feeling cold, increased sensitivity to cold
  • Psychological symptoms such as sadness and depression
  • Constipation
  • Weight gain
  • Fatigue and reduced energy levels