Tired? Can’t focus? Mood swings? Your thyroid gland could be to blame. Hypothyroidism— an underactive thyroid—can trigger these symptoms.
Doctors say it’s one of the most misdiagnosed conditions. Dr. Kenneth Burman, who is endocrinology chief for MedStar Washington Hospital Center, says hypothyroidism affects up to 10 percent of the U.S. population.
It is frequently misdiagnosed, because the symptoms are non-specific and easily mistaken for other health problems, according to Dr. Burman.
In its earliest stages, hypothyroidism may cause no symptoms or vague symptoms, because it often develops gradually. But as thyroid hormone production decreases, the body’s metabolism begins to slow, resulting in fatigue and weakness, often with unintentional weight gain, sleepiness, inability to concentrate and depression.
Bianca Harris, an Environmental Services aide at the Hospital Center, was diagnosed with a thyroid condition 10 years ago. She advocates for testing when relevant symptoms occur. “If you are having anxiety, depression, mood swings, or memory issues, it may be time to get your thyroid checked.”
If your health care professional suspects hypothyroidism, the condition is fairly simple to diagnose. A TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) test, in conjunction with assessment of thyroid hormones T4 and T3, measures whether the thyroid gland is functioning normally.
Hypothyroidism is common in women, particularly those over age 50. However, teenagers, children and even infants can be affected by this condition. “It is especially important to make sure a pregnant woman is not hypothyroid,” adds Dr. Burman. “Untreated hypothyroidism, even a mild version, may contribute to pregnancy complications.”
If you think you have a thyroid condition, it is always wise to discuss what you are experiencing with your health care professional.