9 Stealthy & Unexpected Signs of Thyroid Problems In Young People
When you're young and have very minor health issues, you usually chalk it up to eating habits or the stress in your life. But sometimes, these little symptoms can be a sign of a bigger health issue, including something to do with your thyroid. There are a number of subtle signs of thyroid problems in young people, and even though the symptoms might seem minor, it's important to recognize when they can indicate that something is off with your health.
"Thyroid problems can occur at any age, but most people don't experience them until middle age or later," Terri Richardson, MD, a Kaiser Permanente internal medicine physician, tells Bustle. "For this reason, and because most symptoms can also be caused by many other conditions, it's often overlooked, particularly in younger people. We don’t routinely screen for thyroid disorders in young adults. In general, it is not recommended to routinely screen young adults for thyroid disease. Knowing the signs and symptoms, though, will help you decide when to speak with a physician about your concerns."
Thyroid issues tend to come with a variety of symptoms that can seem unconnected, so it's important to know all the different indicators of a thyroid issue. Here are nine stealthy and unexpected signs of thyroid problems in young people, according to experts.
1. Hair Loss
Hair loss is one of the most commonly seen symptoms associated with thyroid dysfunction. "The thyroid directly affects our health in more aspects than you would think, including the health of our hair," Dr. Becky Campbell tells Bustle. "Hair growth is dependent on the thyroid gland, so having any type of thyroid imbalance can lead to hair loss. Depending on if you are dealing with too much thyroid hormone or too little, you may experience fine or thinning hair or hair loss."
Surprisingly, bathroom troubles can also be a result of underlying thyroid issues. "If you are suffering from hypothyroidism, constipation may be one of your primary complaints," says Dr. Campbell. "This is because hypothyroidism can slow down a number of your body processes and can weaken the contractions of the muscles that help regulate bowel movements. This can lead to constipation and can slow the passage of food through your digestive tract."
3. Mood Changes
Many different things can cause things like anxiety and depression, but a thyroid condition can actually be one of them. "Having an underactive thyroid in the case of hypothyroidism can lead to depression, while an overactive thyroid can lead to things like anxiety," says Dr. Campbell. "When your hormone balance is out of whack, your mental health can suffer."
4. Chronic Fatigue
"Fatigue is a very common symptom of hypothyroidism, and is caused by the slower metabolic function associated with underactive thyroid hormone production," says Richardson. However, it's important to note that fatigue can also point to a range of other conditions, including depression, anemia, sleep apnea, and a host of other conditions, so it usually isn't enough on its own to suspect a thyroid condition.
"If no other obvious cause of fatigue is found, then taking a thyroid test would definitely be appropriate," she says.
5. Unexpected Weight Gain
Dr. Campbell says unexplained weight gain is one of the most common symptoms she sees in patients. "Hypothyroidism can be to blame for this, as it slows down body functions, but it can also cause an increase in appetite, which can also contribute to weight gain," she says.
6. Menstrual Issues
Both hyperthyroid and hypothyroid can have a major impact on your period. "Women with hyperthyroid can experience light, infrequent periods — or stop getting them entirely," says Richardson. "On the other hand, women with hypothyroid can have heavier, more frequent periods and more painful cramps. But because every woman’s cycle is different, or even changes month to month, this can be overlooked as a normal fluctuation instead of a sign of a more serious problem."
7. Dry Skin
Dry skin is a common condition associated with hypothyroidism, and it is easily aggravated by cold weather, says Richardson. According to the medical journal Hippokratia, 77 percent of people with hypothyroidism say they have dry skin.
8. Impaired Memory
Feeling inexplicably more forgetful lately? Your thyroid may be to blame. "Experiencing memory loss or having trouble concentrating is often written off as a side effect of our fast-paced, multi-tasking culture," says Richardson. "But that feeling of 'brain fog' can also be caused by hypothyroidism."
9. Intolerance To Cold
If you are frequently cold or just don’t tolerate the cold very well, it may be time to take a look at your thyroid. "The thyroid is often referred to as the thermostat of the body, as it helps to regulate our body temperature," says Dr. Campbell. "When dealing with a thyroid condition like hypothyroidism, it is not uncommon to have an intolerance to cold, as your body may struggle to properly regulate temperature."
If you have these symptoms, check with your doctor, who can test you for any thyroid issues.