Are you feeling tired, weak, or exhausted when you should be well-rested? If you are getting at least 8 hours of sleep every night and this fatigue persists, it may be a symptom of something more serious. An estimated 50 million Americans live with some form of thyroid disorder, but many are undiagnosed. Exhaustion and fatigue are common symptoms of thyroid disease, but since fatigue may be attributed to any number of other factors, it may be difficult to recognize your thyroid as the issue.
The thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland located in the neck just above the collar bone. The main function of the thyroid is to produce hormones that metabolize food into energy for cells in the body. The most common form of thyroid disease is hypothyroidism, characterized by an under-active thyroid gland. In this case, the thyroid does not produce enough hormones and metabolism slows down, lending to weight gain, fatigue, and depression among other symptoms.
Conversely, a less common and more severe form of thyroid disease is known as hyperthyroidism, which is characterized by an over-active thyroid gland. When the thyroid produces more hormones than the body needs the result is weight loss, increased heart rate, and anxiety.
Fatigue is a telling symptom of both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. Those with an under-active thyroid, hypothyroid, may feel fatigued, weak, sluggish, or lethargic. On the other hand, those with an over-active thyroid, hyperthyroid, may experience daytime fatigue due insomnia and disrupted sleep from racing heart rate.
Other symptoms of thyroid disease include muscle aches and joint pain, swelling or discomfort in the neck, thinning hair or dry skin, bowel problems, menstrual irregularities, cholesterol problems that do not respond to medication, depression or anxiety, and weight issues. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms in conjunction with debilitating fatigue, consider your thyroid and consult your doctor.
Various treatment options are effective in regulating the thyroid hormones and stabilizing metabolism. Medication depends on the type and severity of thyroid disease. It is important to recognize a potential thyroid problem, as such; undiagnosed thyroid issues can lead to worse problems than exhaustion and fatigue. If ignored, thyroid problems can dramatically increase your risk for heart disease, obesity, depression, anxiety, hair loss, sexual dysfunction, infertility, and other serious health problems.
Brenda Brak, M.D., is a board certified family medical practitioner and a member of Advocate Physician Partners. She studied at the University of Illinois Medical School and performed her residency at Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Illinois. Dr. Brak has an office location in Barrington at 400 Fox Glen Court, Barrington, IL 60010. For more information or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Brak, call 1.800.3ADVOCATE (1.800.323.8622).