Both symptoms and signs are indicators of abnormalities in the patient’s health condition that are widely used for establishing the connection to thyroid disease or other possible disorders. However, the difference between a symptom and a sign is often misunderstood.
A symptom is a health abnormality which is a subjective experience of the patient that other people can’t see and independently verify. For example, fatigue is a common hypothyroid symptom and is present in many other diseases. However, the person may experience fatigue but it cannot be seen or confirmed by others.
In contrast, a sign is an abnormality in the patient’s health that the affected person experiences and others can observe and independently confirm as well. For instance, if the patient has loss of scalp hair, it can be evaluated and confirmed by a doctor as one of the sings of underactive thyroid in women.
A variety of clinical signs such as obesity, lethargy and infertility have been attributed to low levels of thyroid hormones. However, many signs of low thyroid in women are nonspecific and occur in patients with other diseases or endocrine disorders. Hypothyroid signs and symptoms could be also attributed to aging and are often overlooked in elderly.
Most common signs of hypothyroidism
Slowed Achilles reflex. Your doctor can evaluate how long it takes the Achilles tendon to relax after contraction. It is slow in hypothyroidism and faster in hyperthyroidism. Other reflexes could be also slow.
Low body temperature. Lower than optimal basal temperature reflect a lower than optimal metabolic state which is usually controlled by the thyroid. The patient takes the first morning underarm temperature and if it is lower than normal 98.6 the individual is hypothyroid. The lower the temperature, the more hypothyroid the person.
This method is a controversial way of assessment, besides low thyroid function there could be other reasons for low basal temperature. For example, if adrenal insufficiency is present and not enough cortisol produced, the body temperature is also affected. Wide variations of temperature reflect an unstable or fatigued adrenal system. Thus, for optimal health, one wants to go from low and/or unstable temperatures to a stable 98.6.
Slow speech and movement due to general slow down of metabolic rate.
Slow heartbeat and low blood pressure. Thyroid hormone helps to control cardiovascular function. Under hypothyroid conditions, a person can develop low heart rate and arrhythmia. When the hardening of the walls of blood vessels increases, the pumping capacity of the heart becomes low. This leads to the decrease of the blood pressure which allows it to fall from normal levels of 120 over 90 to 70 over 50.
Loss of outer edge of eyebrow hair is a unique symptom that nearly always points to hypothyroidism.
Coarse, brittle, frizzy, easily tangled, dry hair and other changes in the hair’s texture.
Loss of scalp, underarm and/or pubic hair. Women with hypothyroidism often find hair loss on the temples and top of the head which is also called male pattern baldness. Loss of body hair in the areas other than the head could also be caused by lack of thyroid hormones and impaired metabolism.
Dry skin which might be caused by hypothyroidism can be treated with both medication and special skin care.
Dry mucous membranes which are the lining of the nostrils, mouth, lips, eyelids, ears, genital area and anus.
Pallor, paleness of skin, pale lips
Dull facial expression
Swelling of the feet, ankles, face and eyelids due to abnormal accumulation of fluid beneath the skin or in the body’s cavities. Hypothyroidism affects lymphatic system slowing the drainage of the body’s lymph nodes and contributing to fluid retention.
Puffiness around the eyes a sign of edema which is another medical term for water retention.
Hoarseness of voice which is a harsh, rough voice caused by insufficient production of thyroid hormones.
Goiter which is an enlargement of the neck.
Unexplainable weight gain
Delayed wound healing
Slow growing ridged and brittle nails
Reproductive abnormalities: menstrual irregularities, low libido and infertility. One of indicators of thyroid problem are changes in the menstrual cycle. In women with mild hypothyroidism periods can become heavier and longer whle cycles are often shorter. If hypothyroidism is more advanced or severe a women can experience amenorrhea which is a lack of menstruation or complete absence of periods. Hypothyroidism can also cause a delay in the menstrual function during puberty.
Hypothyroidism can contribute to low levels of progesterone and unovulation that is a very common to cause difficulties to get pregnant. Furthermore, Hashimoto’s disease and low thyroid function are associated with Polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS when periods often become irregular periods or completely absent making it impossible to conceive. You should requre thyroid tests if you have any of these issues.
Difficulties breathing due to low thyroid function that also weaken muscles, including the diaphragm.
Hypothyroidism is the second leading cause of high cholesterol and triglycerides, after diet. When thyroid hormone levels drop, the liver no longer functions properly and produces excess cholesterol, fatty acids, and triglycerides, which increase the risk of heart disease.
P.S. Do you like what you read? Subscribe to the Outsmart Disease thyroid blog updates and get your FREE e-mail course Nutritional guide for Hashimoto’s disease.