What Are Signs that You May Have a Thyroid Problem?

Women more likely than men to have thyroid issues

A young Asian woman touches her neck checking her thyroid gland.

Women more likely than men to have thyroid issues

Have you been feeling tired or depressed lately? Gained weight? Easily get the chills?

Or perhaps you feel the opposite: Anxious, clammy or even losing weight unintentionally, despite an increased appetite?

These symptoms may be related to stress or the time of year. But they could also be caused by your thyroid gland, which makes hormones that control the body’s metabolism in many ways.

Thyroid disease is very common. According to the American Thyroid Association:

  • About 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease
  • Up to 60 percent of those with thyroid disease are unaware of their condition
  • Women are five to eight times more likely than men to develop thyroid problems

According to the Office of Women’s Health, thyroid diseases in women can cause:

  • Problems with menstrual period
  • Problems getting pregnant
  • Problems during pregnancy

What causes thyroid problems?

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the front of the neck below the voice box. It produces hormones that regulate metabolism — the powerhouse that helps your body convert or use energy.

When a thyroid disorder is present, it can disrupt the production of thyroid hormones and cause serious health issues if left untreated.

The most common thyroid disorders are hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) and hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). Other less common but serious thyroid disorders include thyroid cancer.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism vary, making it difficult to determine whether symptoms are related to a thyroid issue.

“What’s difficult is that all of these symptoms aren’t specific,” says Amy Chang, MD, an endocrinologist at Scripps Clinic Anderson Medical Pavilion in La Jolla. “There are other conditions that can cause similar issues, so it can be difficult to parse out what’s being caused by a thyroid condition or something else.”


Symptoms of hypothyroidism — or when your thyroid does not make enough thyroid hormones — develop slowly, often over several years, and include:

  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Weight gain and water retention
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • High cholesterol
  • Paleness or dry skin
  • Fatigue or sluggishness
  • Puffy face
  • Heavier menstrual periods
  • Brittle hair and nails
  • Joint pain, muscle weakness, cramps, stiffness


Symptoms of hyperthyroidism — or when your thyroid makes more thyroid hormones than your body needs — usually begin slowly, but over time a faster metabolism can cause a variety of symptoms, including:


  • Heat intolerance, increased sweating
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Diarrhea or frequent bowel movements
  • Anxiety, nervousness
  • Rapid, irregular heart beat
  • Unusually low cholesterol
  • Flushed or clammy skin
  • Insomnia
  • Bulging eyes
  • Irregular menstrual periods
  • Hair loss, including in outer edge of eyebrows
  • Difficulty climbing stairs, gripping objects, trembling hands


If you are experiencing symptoms that might suggest a thyroid problem, Dr. Chang recommends contacting your primary doctor for screening. Scripps uses blood, lab and imaging tests to diagnose thyroid disorders.

The blood test measures the levels of TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone), and possibly other hormones, in your blood stream. Dr. Chang says each patient’s TSH level and symptoms should be evaluated and treated in an individualized way.

When blood tests present abnormal results, patients may be referred to a specialist or to their primary care physician to treat the thyroid disorder.

Undiagnosed thyroid problems can dramatically increase the risk of heart disease, mood disorders, obesity and other health issues.

With hypothyroidism, chronic low energy can lead to getting less exercise, feeling weak, tired or depressed. Neural side effects can cause trouble focusing or remembering things.

With hyperthyroidism, heart and bone problems can result.

What are treatments for thyroid disease?

Treatment for thyroid disease depends on the cause and severity of the condition.

Underactive thyroid is typically treated with thyroid hormone replacement pills. Overactive thyroid treatment may be more complex.