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You May Have Thyroid Disease Without Knowing: Here’s How To Check

About 2 in 100 Canadians have hypothyroidism, but it can be hard to detect. These are the symptoms you should watch out for.
By A research-based pharmaceutical manufacturer
You May Have Thyroid Disease Without Knowing: Here’s How To Check

Sponsored by a research-based pharmaceutical manufacturer

The thyroid is a small structure that can have a big impact on your health. Shaped a bit like a butterfly, the thyroid is a gland found in your neck. When your thyroid is healthy, it works with another small organ, the pituitary gland, sending signals back and forth. This communication between the glands keeps your hormone levels balanced. Hormones regulate the way your body’s cells and organs function—it’s an important job!

What is hypothyroidism?

What happens if your thyroid isn’t working well? One of the conditions that can develop is called hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid. If your thyroid isn’t producing enough hormones, the pituitary gland responds by releasing higher amounts of a hormone called thyroid stimulating hormone, or TSH.

It’s thought that many people may have hypothyroidism but not even know it, because its symptoms can develop slowly and also resemble other conditions, such as menopause or depression. According to the Thyroid Foundation of Canada, about about 2 in 100 Canadians have hypothyroidism1.

What are the signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism?

There’s a wide variety of symptoms when it comes to hypothyroidism. People with an underactive thyroid may have a few of these symptoms, a lot of them or something in between2, 3, 4:

  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Weight gain, or trouble losing weight
  • Frequently feeling cold
  • Hair that feels coarse and dry, and grows slowly
  • Hair loss
  • Dry skin that feels cool or rough to the touch; skin may itch, crack or become scaly
  • Sleep apnea (your breathing pauses and then starts again while you’re sleeping)
  • Infertility, both in men and women (trouble getting pregnant, or miscarriages)
  • Constipation
  • Muscle pain, stiffness, weakness or achiness
  • Brittle fingernails or nails that grow in flat, spoon-like shapes
  • Hoarse or shaky voice
  • Heavy menstrual periods for women, erectile dysfunction for men
  • Swelling in the face
  • Difficulty concentrating, memory problems
  • Slower heartbeat
  • Enlargement of the thyroid—you may be able to check yourself, but your healthcare provider can confirm this upon examination

If you suspect that you may be affected by hypothyroidism, click through for a self-assessment and identify if you may need to speak with your doctor.

How is hypothyroidism diagnosed and treated?

Your doctor can order a blood test to check your TSH levels. In most cases of hypothyroidism, there are lower levels of thyroid hormones, and high levels of TSH. It’s recommended that you have your TSH levels checked starting at age 35, and every five years after that5. Treatment of hypothyroidism is usually simple: if your TSH levels are too low, your doctor generally prescribes a daily pill called levothyroxine—a synthetic form of thyroid hormone—to help get your levels back in balance. Your doctor will then monitor your TSH levels by ordering regular blood tests to check that the dose is correct and your hormone levels have returned to normal.

Who is at risk for hypothyroidism?

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Hypothyroidism is more common in people over 50, people who have recently given birth6, and people in menopause5—some symptoms may be attributed to a stage in life when they are really a sign of thyroid dysfunction. Some autoimmune diseases7, like pernicious anemia, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and Type 1 diabetes, are also associated with a higher risk of hypothyroidism. Genetics can also play a role; having a parent or grandparent with hypothyroidism, or having a family history of those autoimmune diseases, can also boost your risk.

It can be easy to overlook thyroid symptoms, or mistake them for something else, but it’s important to get the right answers and the right treatment. Visit thyroidsymptoms.ca to learn more about your thyroid health, and to help prepare you for a chat with your healthcare provider.


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