I’ve been feeling run down with mood swings I can’t explain. Could I have a thyroid problem?
There are millions of Americans who suffer the blues, mood swings, or feeling run down who aren’t suffering from depression or menopausal symptoms but from thyroid disease. Yet, only one in five people who exhibit these symptoms have been tested for thyroid problems. Many don’t even bother to see their doctors. Others are treated with anti-depressants or told their symptoms are all in their head.
The thyroid gland is an extraordinary gland that regulates functions in your body ranging from your metabolism to the ability to tolerate changes in temperature to the texture of your skin and hair. It also regulates cholesterol and hormones that can affect your menstrual cycle and fertility. It is complicated, mysterious and many times overlooked.
The thyroid gland sits in the middle of your neck just above your clavicle. It is normally soft and disappears into the contour of the neck. However when there is a lump or when the gland is enlarged you may see swelling in the area or feel that there is a lump in your throat when you swallow.
Hypothyroidism (when hormone levels are low) is the most common problem and may explain weight gain, sluggishness, dry skin, and coarse hair. Hyperthyroidism (when thyroid levels in the blood are high) may be responsible for irritability, mood swings and feeling warm when everyone else around you is comfortable.
Checking for thyroid disease is easy. Your doctor will feel your neck as you swallow to see if there is enlargement of the gland or any lumps. Then simple blood tests can determine if your thyroid levels are high, low or normal. If you are hypothyroid, you will likely be given thyroid hormone replacement. Most people report feeling better in just a few weeks with this approach.
If you are hyperthyroid your doctor will see if a nodule is excreting extra hormone. Sometimes the treatment is to quiet the gland with radioactive iodine and sometimes surgery is in order.
The most important thing to remember is that if you aren’t feeling up to par and you believe something is wrong ask your doctor to check your thyroid. Sometimes, if you don’t ask to be screened, easily treatable thyroid problems can be overlooked.