We all get tired from time to time. It’s no wonder, when we are juggling family, work and all the other demands of day-to-day life. However, if you find that you are tired all of the time, then it may be a sign of a more serious condition. One of the most common causes of fatigue in women is an underactive thyroid – in fact, it is much more prevalent in women than in men, and the chances of having a thyroid condition increase as you get older. In fact, between 4% and 8% of women have mild hypothyroidism – the medical term for an underactive thyroid – and one study in the UK found that this rose to as much as 20% in women over the age of 60.
If you’re wondering exactly what your thyroid is, it is a gland located at the base of your neck. Your thyroid gland produces a number of hormones that control how quickly your body uses energy. If your thyroid is not producing enough of these hormones, you will have a slow metabolism – which causes a number of symptoms, including fatigue. On the other hand, if your thyroid is too active – this is known as hyperthyroidism – this can make you anxious, as well as creating many other unpleasant side effects.
Let’s take a look at some of those other thyroid symptoms in women. Women’s symptoms of an underactive thyroid go far beyond just fatigue – for example, you may gain weight or experience heavy menstrual periods. Other physical symptoms include dry skin, a hoarse voice and sensitivity to the cold. It can also affect your ability to think – many women with hypothyroidism have trouble concentrating and remembering things. Because your thyroid is located at the bottom of your neck, you may experience pain or slight swelling there – in fact, this makes it more likely that you do have an underactive thyroid.
On the other hand, an overactive thyroid has quite different symptoms. We have already talked about being anxious and irritable, but hyperthyroidism can also cause you to lose weight and make it difficult for you to sleep. Unlike an underactive thyroid – which causes heavy menstruation, hyperthyroidism may make your periods unusually light. Other symptoms include weak muscles, muscle tremors and heat intolerance. You may also experience changes in your vision, and in severe cases your eyes may bulge – this is known as Graves’ disease. Graves’ disease also causes goiter – a very large swelling at the base of your neck.
There are a number of simple things you can do to avoid having thyroid problems, although you can’t eliminate the risk entirely. To start with, eat a balanced diet – if you get good nutrition, then your thyroid will work better. Smoking is another thing to avoid – tobacco smoke contains chemicals that can damage your thyroid when it is exposed to them for a long period of time. Food allergies can also play a role, so it’s a good idea to identify any of these and make sure that you get them treated – or just avoid eating these foods. There is also some evidence that consuming large amounts of soy products can cause damage to your thyroid, so it’s a good idea only to eat these occasionally.
Sometimes however, there’s nothing you can do to steer clear of thyroid problems. This is particularly the case you if you have autoimmune disorder – where your immune system attacks specific parts of your body. Autoimmune disorders can give rise to a wide range of medical conditions, including diabetes, lupus and psoriasis. In the case of your thyroid, the condition is known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which causes your thyroid to become chronically inflamed and reduces its ability to produce thyroid hormones. Many women also develop thyroid problems after they give birth – this is known as postpartum thyroiditis, and fortunately it is usually only a temporary condition.
Getting tested for thyroid problems is relatively simple, so there is no need to be worried about the procedure. All that will happen is that you will have a blood test that looks at the levels of thyroid hormones in your body. You can also have a blood test that checks for thyroid antibodies – this is an early sign of autoimmune disease. In general, it’s a good idea to get tested every few years – even if you don’t have any symptoms – since this can reveal slight abnormalities before they become serious problems, particularly in the case of thyroid antibody testing.
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About Our Founder
Cascia Talbert is a busy blogger, and mother of five children, living in Spokane, WA. With a B.A. in history and law and a passion for writing and staying healthy, she started The Healthy Moms Magazine in 2007. The Healthy Moms Magazine is currently ranked the top health blog for moms. Ms. Talbert believes that if mothers are well educated on health issues and how to stay healthy, they can pass that information down to their children and reverse the childhood obesity statistics in the U.S.
Cascia Talbert is a devout Catholic, mother of five children, health and fitness enthusiast and positive parenting supporter. She is also the founder of the award winning online health, fitness, parenting and Christian faith magazine for moms, the Healthy Moms Magazine. She lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband, five children and one spoiled cat. Her hobbies include gardening, country music, running, and playing her flute.
Check out her first book, "Taking Care of your Family's Health and Well-being, Saints to Turn to and the Catholic Faith," available anywhere books are sold.