Thyroid Disease Symptoms: Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism

hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism symptoms, thyroid symptoms
Cecile Lavabre / Getty Images

It sometimes may seem like the symptoms of your thyroid problem—whether you are underactive (hypothyroidism) or overactive (hyperthyroidism)—are as hard to pin down as the thyroid diagnosis itself. Open any medical reference or check out any website, and you might see very different, lengthy lists of the symptoms that supposedly point to a thyroid condition.

Thyroid symptoms can also be similar to the conditions of many other diseases and health conditions.

Joint aches/pains can be signs of arthritis or insufficient exercise, weight gain may be related to menopause or to overeating, and fatigue can be a sign of dozens of conditions. It's easy for you—and your doctor—to assume that thyroid symptoms are actually the result of other healtht conditions, your age, your lifestyle, or stress. 

In my case, after I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism in the early 1990s, the doctor initially described hypothyroidism as something can make you tired and gain weight. While problematic, these were understandable symptoms. 

Then my hair fell out. My menstrual periods started coming more frequently, and more heavily. I felt like no matter what, I couldn't get a full breath. .My skin got dry and flaky, and my fingernails were breaking. I had an annoying and persistent tic in my eye. What was going on? 

The doctors hadn't mentioned many of these symptoms of hypothyroidism I started to experience.

So I read more, learned more, and talked to other thyroid patients. And I found out that things like hair falling out, erratic menstrual periods, air hunger, dry skin, breaking nails, and eye twitching were all symptoms of hypothyroidism. 

For me, despite the fact that these symptoms were caused by my thyroid, I felt that knowing was better than not knowing.

I'd rather understand that my thyroid problem still needs some further treatment than worry that something else is going wrong with my body. 

Among reputable medical sources, it seems that there is some medical agreement that the following are the key symptoms of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.

Hypothyroidism Symptoms

An underactive thyroid—known as hypothyroidism—can have a number of symptoms that reflect a slowdown in the body's processes and metabolism. They include:

  • weight gain
  • difficulty losing weight
  • fatigue and exhaustion
  • feeling rundown and sluggish
  • depression, moodiness
  • difficulty concentrating, known as "brain fog"
  • memory problems
  • dry, coarse and/or itchy skin
  • dry, coarse and/or thinning hair
  • loss of hair from the outer edge of eyebrows
  • feeling cold, especially in your hands and feet 
  • constipation
  • muscle cramps
  • joint aches/pain
  • increased menstrual flow
  • more frequent periods
  • infertility/miscarriage
  • unusually low blood pressure
  • unusually low pulse/heart rate
  • frequent infections
  • low sex drive
  • bloating/puffiness/swelling in your hands, feet, eye area, face
  • carpal tunnel syndrome
  • tarsal tunnel syndrome
  • foot and heel pain
  • persistent tics in the eye
  • neck pain
  • sensitivity to ties, scarves
  • swelling in the neck, neck enlargement
  • sore throat
  • increased sensitivity to cold
  • hoarseness
  • muscle weakness
  • elevated cholesterol levels

These symptoms are only the tip of the iceberg. With hypothyroidism, there are a many symptoms and risk factors that should be looked at to evaluate whether or not you are hypothyroid. Start by reviewing the Hypothyroidism Risks/Symptoms Checklist, a detailed, comprehensive checklist of hypothyroidism symptoms that you can review and bring to your doctor to aid in getting a proper diagnosis.

Hyperthyroidism

With hyperthyroidism, your symptoms will usually reflect an increased metabolism, due to the excess thyroid hormone, and a speeding up of common body processes.

Common symptoms include:

  • anxiety and nervousness
  • panic attacks
  • anger and irritability
  • weight loss without dieting
  • increased appetite with no weight gain
  • unrelieved hunger
  • tremors
  • heart palpitations
  • a high pulse/heart rate
  • high blood pressure
  • changes to your hair: finer, thinner
  • unusually smooth skin texture
  • diarrhea or loose stools
  • insomnia
  • light menstrual periods
  • lack of menstrual periods
  • heat intolerance
  • increased sweating
  • fertility problems
  • shortness of breath
  • itching and hives
  • neck pain
  • sensitivity to ties, scarves
  • swelling in the neck, neck enlargement
  • sore throat
  • bulging eyes
  • double vision
  • dry eyes, sensitivity to light

For more information on hyperthyroidism symptoms, see this Graves' Disease / Hyperthyroidism Risks and Symptoms Checklist.

More Information About Thyroid Symptoms

For more information about thyroid symptoms, you will want to review the following articles: 

Sources:

Braverman, L, Cooper D. Werner & Ingbar's The Thyroid, 10th Edition. WLL/Wolters Kluwer; 2012.

Garber, J, Cobin, R, Gharib, H, et. al. "Clinical Practice Guidelines for Hypothyroidism in Adults: Cosponsored by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and the American Thyroid Association." Endocrine Practice. Vol 18 No. 6 November/December 2012.

Continue Reading