Physical Signs of Thyroid Deficiency – Hypothyroidism

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In this blog we are looking at Thyroid Deficiency, how to spot it through physical signs, and why it is so important to recognize and treat it.

Click to view reference chart – Hypothyroidism (Thyroid Hormone Deficiency) – Physical Signs

We continue our discussion of recognizing the physical signs of hormonal deficiencies, today we discuss the loss of thyroid hormones, or hypothyroidism. The thyroid is a very active gland that controls the rate at which we burn calories to make heat and energy. It also affects the process of making and remodeling bone, mental energy, sleep and wake cycles, water and salt balance, so there are many signs of thyroid deficiency that you can learn to look for to detect it in yourself and your family.

The most obvious three physical signs that you can notice at one glance are, thin brittle hair, bare areas where the lateral eyebrows should be, and cracked and broken nails. All three of these signs can be signs of other hormone or vitamin deficiencies when found alone, but together they mean hypothyroidism.

The next general sign of hypothyroidism includes weight gain, especially in the belly, face and shoulders. Hands and feet are swollen with water retention, and often there is a large bulge at the base of the neck that signals a goiter. A goiter is an enlarged thyroid gland that is either struggling to produce enough thyroid hormone, or it can be from an overactive thyroid gland, but the other symptoms would not be present if the thyroid was over producing thyroid hormone.

Facial expression on thyroid deficiency patients is bored, or flat, lacking in affect or even looking depressed since a depressed mood often accompanies hypothyroidism.

Obesity is a common sign of long-term low thyroid. Breasts are droopy, periods are irregular and anovulatory, and in men, breast tissue is droopy, however breasts are not enlarged.

Upon exam a hypothyroid patient has a slow pulse and low blood pressure, despite their obesity. Basically it is impossible for these patients to lose weight without adequate thyroid hormone replacement!

I see this every day and can diagnose my patients after years of observing patients quite quickly and accurately. Regularly, patients with the symptoms of cold sensitivity, sadness, hair loss, sleeping all the time and inability to lose weight, do not have abnormal blood tests. This is a flaw in just relying on numbers of a blood test to tell us what is going on. Sometimes the ranking is in the “normal” level or range for blood numbers, but the individual still experiences all the symptoms of low thyroid. In these cases I have offered them replacement thyroid and despite the previously normal blood levels, the thyroid replacement will always make them asymptomatic, and relieve their signs of hypothyroidism fairly quickly!

It is really important to understand that among elderly or aging women low functioning thyroid is often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. It will improve their quality of health and quality of life to restore the active functioning of their thyroids. I often find myself wishing that more doctors realized this and that more of them would put their patients on replacement thyroids.

This Health cast was written and presented by Dr. Kathy Maupin, M.D., Bio-identical Hormone Replacement Expert and Author, with Brett Newcomb, MA., LPC., Family Counselor, Presenter and Author.

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