10 Urgent Signs Your Thyroid Is In Trouble

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10 Urgent Signs Your Thyroid Is In Trouble
10 Urgent Signs Your Thyroid Is In Trouble Graphic © healthpowerboost.com. Small illustrations: Pixabay (PD)

The thyroid is an organ found in your neck in front of your windpipe and is responsible for production and regulation of specific hormones in the body. [1] Thyroid hormones are essential for normal physiological functioning, particularly in regulating metabolism and cardiovascular health.

The prevalence of thyroid problems vary with each kind of disease, with hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) occurring in the UK for example in 1-2% of the population in iodine-replete communities and hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) at 0.5-2% of the population. The prevalence for thyroid cancer is low overall, making up less than 1% of malignancies. however, it accounts for more than 90% of cancers involving the endocrine system and its organs. [2]

Here’s my full report on thyroid health; first a tutorial in thyroid function – and then signs and symptoms of thyroid issues to keep an eye out for.

The Various Thyroid Hormones And Their Function

T4 and T3: The primary hormones produced by the thyroid gland are thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). These hormones play a key role in regulating the body’s metabolic rate, influencing heart rate, body temperature, and energy consumption. T4 is the predominant hormone produced by the thyroid, but it is less active than T3. In peripheral tissues, T4 is converted into the more active T3, which exerts the majority of the physiological effects.

TRH and TSH: Production of the thyroid hormones is regulated by the hypothalamus and pituitary gland. The hypothalamus releases thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH), which stimulates the pituitary gland to produce thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). TSH then acts on the thyroid gland to regulate the production of T4 and T3. This feedback loop ensures the maintenance of appropriate levels of thyroid hormones in the body.

The typical blood tests that assess thyroid function are TSH, T4 and sometimes T3. Here is review of the various thyroid hormones in greater depth.

Thyroid Hormone Thyroxine (T4)

Thyroxine (T4) plays a pivotal role in regulating various physiological processes. Understanding the function and impact of T4 is essential for comprehending thyroid-related health issues and their systemic effects,

Production and Function: T4 is synthesized in the thyroid gland through the iodination of tyrosine residues in thyroglobulin, a process regulated by thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). It is the most abundant thyroid hormone in the bloodstream, but it is less biologically active compared to triiodothyronine (T3). T4 acts as a prohormone, with a significant portion converted into the more active T3 in peripheral tissues. This conversion is crucial for T4 to exert its physiological effects.

T4 and Metabolic Regulation: T4 plays a critical role in regulating the body’s metabolic rate. It influences various metabolic processes, including protein synthesis, carbohydrate and lipid metabolism, and energy expenditure. T4’s impact on metabolism is vital for growth, development, and overall energy balance.

T4 and Cardiovascular Health: T4 has significant effects on the cardiovascular system. It influences heart rate, cardiac contractility, and vascular resistance. Both excess and deficiency of T4 can lead to cardiovascular complications, such as arrhythmias, hypertension, and heart failure. The precise molecular and biochemical mechanisms governing these effects are areas of ongoing research.

T4 and Neurological Function: T4 is essential for normal brain development and function. It influences cognitive processes, neural development, and mood regulation. Thyroid hormone imbalances, including T4 abnormalities, can lead to neurological and psychological disorders. [3]

Thyroid Hormone Triiodothyronine (T3)

Triiodothyronine (T3) is crucial for various physiological processes.

Production and Function: T3 is primarily produced from the deiodination of thyroxine (T4) in peripheral tissues. It is more biologically active than T4 and plays a significant role in regulating metabolism. T3 acts at the cellular level, influencing gene expression and protein synthesis, thereby affecting metabolic rate, growth, and development.

T3 and Metabolic Regulation: T3 is a potent regulator of the body’s metabolic processes. It stimulates metabolic activities, leading to increased energy consumption and heat production. T3’s role in metabolism is vital for maintaining energy balance, body temperature, and overall metabolic health.

T3 and Cardiovascular Health: T3 has a profound impact on the cardiovascular system. It influences heart rate, cardiac contractility, and vascular resistance. Abnormal levels of T3 can lead to various cardiovascular issues, including arrhythmias and hypertension.

T3 and Neurological Function: T3 is essential for brain development and function. It affects cognitive processes, neural development, and mood regulation. Imbalances in T3 levels can lead to neurological and psychological disorders. [4]

Thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH)

Thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) is a critical hormone in the regulation of thyroid function. It plays a pivotal role in the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis, influencing the release of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and, consequently, the production of thyroid hormones.

Production and Function: TRH is produced in the hypothalamus and acts on the anterior pituitary gland to stimulate the release of TSH. This hormone is essential for the synthesis and secretion of thyroid hormones, thyroxine (T4), and triiodothyronine (T3). TRH is a tripeptide hormone, and its production and release are regulated by negative feedback from circulating levels of thyroid hormones.

TRH and Its Distribution in the CNS: Research has identified TRH-containing nerve terminals in various parts of the central nervous system (CNS), including the medial part of the external layer of the median eminence, the dorsomedial nucleus, and the perifornical area. This distribution suggests that TRH may act both as a hormone, released into the portal vessels, and as a neurotransmitter or modulator in discrete regions of the brain and spinal cord. The presence of TRH in extrahypothalamic nuclei such as the nucleus accumbens and the lateral septal nucleus further indicates its diverse roles in the CNS.

TRH and Neurological Functions: The identification of TRH in various brain regions highlights its potential neuromodulatory functions. TRH is involved in regulating several classical neurotransmitters, indicating its broad range of actions in the CNS. This includes potential roles in seizure regulation, neuroprotection, and modulation of cognitive and emotional processes. [5]

Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone (TSH)

Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) is a critical hormone in human development, playing a pivotal role in regulating the body’s metabolism. It also influences the function of nervous, skeletal, and reproductive tissues, as well as the regulation of body temperature, heart rate, body weight, and cholesterol levels.

TSH and Thyroid Function: TSH, a glycoprotein hormone secreted by the anterior pituitary gland, is essential for the secretion of thyroid hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). The hypothalamus releases thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH), stimulating the release of TSH, which in turn induces the production of thyroid hormones. The concentration of thyroid hormones regulates TSH production, with high levels inhibiting and low levels stimulating TSH release.

TSH in Disease Diagnosis and Management: Maintaining a constant TSH level within the normal range (0.5–5.0 μIU/mL) is crucial for patients with TSH-related diseases. If left untreated, TSH-related diseases can lead to serious symptoms like elevated cholesterol, infertility, low bone density, muscle weakness, osteoporosis, lupus, and various autoimmune diseases. Accurate assessment of TSH biomarkers at low concentrations in clinical serum is essential for diagnosis and management.

TSH Tests: TSH is measured with a simple blood test. Dr. Ekberg mentions that the “normal range” is between 0.5 and 5, and if you go above or beyond those limits, you can get diagnosed with either hyperthyroidism (if your TSH is below 0.5) or hypothyroidism (if your TSH is above 5). However, according to Dr. Ekberg, optimum thyroid function falls between 1.8 and 3, anything above or beyond that is considered functional hypo/hyperthyroidism, where your TSH levels fall within the normal range but your body is showing signs and symptoms of thyroid dysfunction. [6]

Advances in TSH Detection: Recent advancements have led to the development of highly sensitive detection methods for TSH, crucial for diagnosing hypo- and hyperthyroidism. Surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS)-based lateral flow immunoassay (LFIA) sensors have shown promise in overcoming sensitivity issues in TSH detection, particularly for diagnosing hyperthyroidism. This technique allows for the diagnosis of both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism by measuring the SERS intensity, offering a more sensitive and rapid analysis compared to traditional methods. [7]

10 Urgent Signs Your Thyroid Is In Trouble

Dysfunction in the thyroid can lead to a range of health issues. Recognizing the early signs of thyroid trouble is essential for timely intervention and treatment. Pay attention to these signs but also be aware that they may have other causes. Follow up any concerning symptoms with check-up and lab tests from your physician. [8]

1. Temperature Sensitivity:

The primary thyroid hormones, thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), are integral to the body’s metabolic processes. They stimulate various metabolic activities that generate heat, a key component of thermoregulation. An increase in thyroid hormone levels typically leads to an increase in metabolic rate and, consequently, body heat production. [9]

Hypothyroidism and Reduced Thermogenesis: Hypothyroidism, characterized by low levels of thyroid hormones, can lead to decreased metabolic rate and reduced heat production. Individuals with hypothyroidism often experience increased sensitivity to cold due to the body’s diminished ability to generate sufficient heat. Hypothyroidism presents with increased cold sensitivity, typically because of changes in energy expenditure and response to decreased temperatures. [10]

Hyperthyroidism and Increased Heat Production: Conversely, hyperthyroidism, where there is an excess of thyroid hormones, results in an increased metabolic rate. This condition often leads to elevated body temperature and heat intolerance, as the body produces more heat than it can effectively dissipate.

Thyroid hormones are also involved in adaptive thermogenesis, the body’s mechanism to produce heat in response to cold environments. This process is crucial for maintaining core body temperature in cold conditions.

2. Unusual Weight Changes:

Sudden weight gain or loss without significant changes in diet or exercise routine can be a sign of thyroid dysfunction. (Weight gain would correspond to slowed metabolism, loss would correspond to accelerated metabolism.)

3. Fatigue and Weakness:

Persistent fatigue and weakness, despite adequate rest, may indicate an underactive or overactive thyroid, presenting as decreased cardiac output and slower heart rate.

4. Mood Changes:

Unexplained mood swings, depression, or anxiety can be linked to thyroid disorders.

4. Hair and Skin Changes:

Thinning hair, dry skin, or hair loss can be symptoms of thyroid issues.

6. Menstrual Irregularities:

Women may experience changes in their menstrual cycle due to thyroid dysfunction.

7. Swelling in the Neck:

A visible swelling or discomfort in the neck area is a “classic” symptom that can indicate a thyroid issue – due to the enlargement of the thyroid gland, a condition known as a goiter. The thyroid gland is located at the front of the neck, just below the Adam’s apple.

Several factors can lead to the enlargement of the thyroid gland, causing a goiter or swelling in the neck:

1. Iodine Deficiency: Iodine is essential for the production of thyroid hormones. A lack of iodine in the diet can lead to reduced hormone production, prompting the thyroid gland to enlarge in an effort to capture more iodine from the bloodstream.

2. Thyroiditis: Inflammation of the thyroid gland, often due to an autoimmune response (as in Hashimoto’s thyroiditis) or infection, can cause swelling.

3. Hyperthyroidism: Conditions like Graves’ disease, where the thyroid is overactive, can lead to the enlargement of the gland.

4. Thyroid Nodules: These are lumps that can form within the thyroid gland, leading to its enlargement. While most thyroid nodules are benign, some can be cancerous.

5. Thyroid Cancer: In rare cases, swelling in the neck can be a sign of thyroid cancer.

6. Pregnancy: Some women may experience enlargement of the thyroid gland during pregnancy due to hormonal changes and increased demand for thyroid hormones.

8. Changes in Heart Rate:

Thyroid hormones have a significant impact on the cardiovascular system. They influence heart rate, cardiac contractility, and vascular resistance. Both hyperthyroidism (excess thyroid hormone production) and hypothyroidism (insufficient thyroid hormone production) can lead to cardiovascular complications, such as arrhythmias, hypertension, and heart failure. [11]

9. Difficulty Concentrating:

Thyroid hormones, primarily thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), are essential for normal brain development and function. They influence cognitive domains such as attention, concentration, memory, and executive function. These cognitive domains are linked to neural systems involving multiple brain regions, and thyroid hormones are crucial for their optimal functioning. The link between thyroid function and the ability to concentrate is complex and multifaceted. [12]

Both clinical and subclinical hypothyroidism can lead to decreased cognitive functioning. This includes impairments in memory, reaction time, and visuospatial organization. Subclinical hypothyroidism, characterized by elevated thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels with normal T4 and T3 levels, has been associated with cognitive impairment and dementia, particularly in middle-aged and elderly adults.

Recent studies have explored the association between thyroid function and cognitive performance, especially in the elderly. While some studies have shown a consistent finding of cognitive impairment associated with subclinical hypothyroidism, others have not found significant cognitive effects. The discrepancies among studies may be due to differences in cognitive testing sensitivity and the specific cognitive domains assessed.

10. Altered Bowel Habits:

Changes in bowel habits, such as constipation or diarrhea, can be signs of thyroid issues.

Further Possible Symptoms:

• Slow response to stress (“fight or flight” response), caused by decreased sensitivity to adrenal hormones.

• Slower reflexes and decreased muscle tone.

• Tremors and twitching, caused by increased muscle tone and reflexes.

• Heightened stress response, caused by increased sensitivity to adrenal hormones (caused by hyperthyroidism).

That’s it for our report! Now the scientific references…


[1] Cleveland Clinic. Thyroid Disease. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/8541-thyroid-disease

[2] Vanderpump, M. (2011). The epidemiology of thyroid disease. https://academic.oup.com/bmb/article-pdf/99/1/39/845073/ldr030.pdf

[3] “Thyroid and Cardiovascular Disease: Research Agenda for Enhancing Knowledge, Prevention, and Treatment” – Anne R. Cappola et al. (2019). [Thyroid] https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/thy.2018.0416

[4] “A Historical Reflection on Scientific Advances in Understanding Thyroid Hormone Action” – Gregory A. Brent (2023). [Thyroid] https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/thy.2022.0636

[5] “The identification of thyrotropin releasing hormone (TRH) in hypothalamic and extrahypothalamic loci of the human nervous system” – Burt D.R. et al. (1977). [Brain Research] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/000689937790230X

[6] Curley, P. (2009). Dietary and Lifestyle Interventions to Support Functional Hypothyroidism. http://www.inquiriesjournal.com/articles/91/dietary-and-lifestyle-interventions-to-support-functional-hypothyroidism

[7] “Quantitative analysis of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) using SERS-based lateral flow immunoassay” – Y. Liu et al. (2017). [Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0925400516314113

[8] “Common Clinical signs and symptoms observed in Patients diagnosed with Thyrotoxicosis in Gujranwala, Pakistan” – Muhammad Adnan Iqbal et al. (2023). [Pakistan Journal of Medical & Health Sciences] https://pjmhsonline.com/index.php/pjmhs/article/view/4074

[9] “Leptin regulation of core body temperature involves mechanisms independent of the thyroid axis” – Jennifer D. Deem et al. (2018). [American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism] https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/ajpendo.00462.2017

[10] Maushart, C., et. al. (2019). Resolution of Hypothyroidism Restores Cold-Induced Thermogenesis in Humans. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6482913/

[11] “Thyroid and Cardiovascular Disease: Research Agenda for Enhancing Knowledge, Prevention, and Treatment” – Anne R. Cappola et al. (2019). [Thyroid] https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/thy.2018.0416

[12] “Cognitive Function in Subclinical Hypothyroidism” – Journal Of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (2010). [The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism] https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/95/8/3611/2596473

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