Fatigue. Weight Gain. Hair Loss. Could You Have a Thyroid Issue?

Man fatigued

Fatigue, weight gain, and hair loss could be signs of a problem with your thyroid. This small gland in your neck -- the body's great regulator -- often just doesn't work right. It's important to get the proper treatment to avoid serious health problems.

The most common cause of weight gain, and an accompanying increased risk for heart disease, is our American diet and lifestyle. We love those cheeseburgers and fries, and who doesn’t want to kick back and relax on the couch?

However for some people, fatigue, weight gain, and lack of energy may be due to their thyroid gland.

Where is the Thyroid Gland and What Does It Do?

Shaped like a butterfly, the thyroid is located in the front of your neck. It is an endocrine gland that produces hormones that basically influence every metabolic process in your body. So if you're gaining or losing weight and aren't trying to, if your neck is swollen, or if you feel too cold or hot, your hormone levels may be too high or too low.

A malfunctioning thyroid can produce a variety of symptoms as noted. One of the most common signs that you're having a problem is unexplained weight gain or loss.

Unexpected weight gain could be a sign that your thyroid hormones are too low, a condition called hypothyroidism. You may also feel tired and have trouble tolerating cold temperatures. In contrast, unexplained weight loss could be a sign that your thyroid hormones are too high, a condition called hyperthyroidism. Your heart rate may quicken and you could be sensitive to heat.

Summary of Symptoms Caused by an Overactive or Underactive Thyroid

Hypothyroidism (underactive)  Hyperthyroidism (overactive)
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Feeling cold more than usual
  • A swelling or enlargement in the neck
  • A slower-than-usual heart rate
  • Feeling tired, sluggish, or depressed
  • Hair loss
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands
  • Dry skin and brittle nails
  • Constipation
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Excessive sweating
  • A swelling or enlargement in the neck
  • A faster-than-usual heart rate, palpitations
  • Anxiety, sleep disruptions, restlessness, irritability
  • Hair loss
  • Muscle weakness, trembling hands
  • Vision problems

How are Thyroid Problems Treated?

Medications are the most common treatment for both types of thyroid disorders. Surgery can cure hyperthyroidism, but it's usually only recommended if medications don't work.

Thyroid disorders are most common in women, particularly if you're a woman over age 60 or have a family history of one of the conditions. Depending on your symptoms, screening for thyroid problems may be indicated and can be done by having your doctor order a blood test that measures the level of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) to determine if your thyroid is functioning properly.

Check with your doctor to see if you may need to be screened for a thyroid disorder. Then you can eliminate all excuses and get off the couch and into a lifestyle of activity.

author name

Christopher L. Hager, MD

Christopher Hager, MD, is a family medicine physician with Novara, a concierge primary care practice. Dr. Hager is a graduate of Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine and the Lancaster General Hospital Family Medicine Residency Program. His areas of special expertise include prevention/wellness, sports medicine, and management of chronic diseases (diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol).

Call: 717-544-5000

About LG Health Hub

The LG Health Hub features breaking medical news and straightforward advice to help individuals of all ages make healthy choices and reach their wellness goals. The blog puts articles by trusted Lancaster General Health clinical experts, good 'n healthy recipes, videos, patient stories, and health risk assessments at your fingertips.


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