Written by Lauren Bedosky

For such a small gland, your thyroid can have a major impact on your body (especially when it’s not working correctly). That’s because your thyroid is responsible for creating and releasing hormones that help manage several of your body’s most important functions—including your metabolism. [1]

When your thyroid function is off (often due to genetic factors), [2] it typically shows up in one of two ways: It goes into overdrive (hyperthyroidism), producing too much of a thyroid hormone known as thyroxine, or it slows way down. When you have an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), your body doesn’t make enough hormones. [1,3]

Thyroid issues can cause a myriad of symptoms, according to the Cleveland Clinic. [4] From fatigue to sudden weight loss or gain, no set of symptoms will look exactly alike, so it can be hard to know exactly what’s going on. This is why it’s so important to keep tabs on your thyroid health, which you can do with a home thyroid test now—no doctor appointment needed.

Here, three women share how their thyroid issue made itself known—and what they did next.


Subtle Symptoms Reveal a Surprising Diagnosis


When Stacy Monson, 62, went in for her annual physical exam, her thyroid wasn’t even on her radar. [5]

“I didn’t know anything about thyroid issues,” she recalls. But when she mentioned to her doctor that she had been feeling particularly constipated and fatigued recently, her doctor immediately decided to test her thyroid for any irregularities.

“My doctor was able to tell that my thyroid was a tiny bit enlarged. She ordered blood work,” Monson explains. [5]

Ultimately, Monson was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. Common symptoms associated with hypothyroidism include weight gain, muscle weakness, swelling in the joints, and heavy or irregular menstrual periods. If left untreated, hypothyroidism can cause obesity, joint pain, and heart disease. [6]

Luckily for Monson, her case of hypothyroidism hasn’t caused her much concern so far. “It was and has continued to be a mild condition,” she says. She uses a daily thyroid medication to keep her thyroid hormone at healthy levels [5](something that can now be checked with a quick home thyroid test), and her doctor adjusts the dosage at annual checkups.[5]

Related article: Are You One of 13 Million Americans With an Undiagnosed Thyroid Condition?


When Effortless Weight Loss Isn’t a Good Thing


The first clue that something was wrong appeared years earlier, when Laurie, now 55, had no trouble losing pregnancy weight after the birth of her two children. “It felt like the weight just melted off without much effort on my part,” she recalls.[7] But what ultimately sent her to the doctor in 2016[7] was an onslaught of other classic hyperthyroidism symptoms that included rapid and irregular heart rate, hair loss, memory fog, and an inability to gain weight.[8]

A series of thyroid screenings (which can now be initiated via a home thyroid test) confirmed a diagnosis of hyperthyroidism. But instead of turning to medications for her underactive thyroid,[9] Laurie began working closely with a functional medicine doctor.[7] “I wanted to try and handle this naturally because I’ve always been a very health-conscious person and I don’t like the idea of having to be reliant on a pill for the rest of my life,” she says.[7]

Laurie made several diet and lifestyle changes, under her doctor’s supervision.

While Laurie’s issues haven’t been completely resolved, “I have been healing naturally and am not taking meds,” she says. Thanks to her tweaks, Laurie no longer has heart palpitations, irregular heartbeat, and she’s gained back the 15 pounds she lost at the height of her hyperthyroidism.[7]

Related article: 6 Surprising Reasons You’re Gaining Weight (Besides Your Diet)


A Sore Throat Turns Out to be Something More


Holly Nelson, 62, got her diagnosis of a thyroid nodule 20 years ago when she went into the doctor’s office for unrelated reasons. [12]

“I had been suffering from a very sore throat for about two weeks, and it wasn’t getting any better,” she explains. When her doctor examined her throat, he happened to spot a lump on her thyroid. “It was visible to the eye, but I never noticed it or felt anything,” Nelson says. “It was completely unrelated to the sore throat,” she adds. [12]

Her doctor identified the lump as a thyroid nodule, [12] an abnormal growth of cells inside the gland, according to the American Thyroid Association. They’re extremely common—half of Americans will have one by age 60—and typically don’t cause symptoms. [13]

But while most nodules are harmless, a small number are cancerous. That’s why it’s so important to have a consultation with your doctor if you notice any lumps or swellings[1; 13]

To rule out cancer, Nelson’s doctor ordered ultrasound imaging and a fine-needle aspiration biopsy. [12; 13] “The process involved drawing fluid from the nodule in several locations with a needle,” she recalls. “The fluid was then examined to determine whether cancer cells were present.” [12]

Luckily, in Nelson’s case, the nodule was noncancerous. However, she was prescribed a daily hormone medication to keep the nodule from getting bigger or causing any further symptoms. “Ideally, with a correct dose, the nodule would not grow because the supplemental hormone would, in essence, tell the thyroid to stop making more thyroid hormone,” she says. [12]

For her care team, the key to treatment was to find the right dose so she wouldn’t produce too much or too little thyroid hormone. [12] With too much hormone, Nelson would feel the symptoms of having an overactive thyroid (agitation, weight loss). With too little, she would experience the symptoms of hypothyroidism (sluggishness, weight gain). [1,4,6]

“The dosage was adjusted over a few years but has remained consistent for the past 20 years or so,” Nelson says. She continues to take thyroid replacement medication daily and visits her doctor for a blood test once a year to ensure that her medication is at the right level. [12]

If you’d like to learn about your thyroid health, try a home test. You’ll get results in 2 to 5 days, and a valuable window into how well your thyroid is functioning. If you have any symptoms or if you notice any lumps or swellings it is very important to have a consultation with a doctor. Thyroid problems can be successfully addressed—but first, they need to be detected.

Related article: How Do You Check Thyroid Problems From Home?


References


  1. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
    Office on Women’s Health
    Thyroid disease
    https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/thyroid-disease

  2. Cleveland Clinic
    Health Essentials
    Thyroid Disease May Run in Your Family — and You Might Not Know It
    https://health.clevelandclinic.org/thyroid-disease-may-run-in-your-family-and-you-might-not-know-it/

  3. National Institutes of Health
    U.S. National Library of Medicine
    Medline Plus
    Thyroxine (T4) Test
    https://medlineplus.gov/lab-tests/thyroxine-t4-test/

  4. Cleveland Clinic
    Thyroid Disease
    https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/8541-thyroid-disease

  5. Stacy Monson

  6. Mayo Clinic
    Hypothyroidism
    Symptoms & Causes
    https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hypothyroidism/symptoms-causes/syc-20350284

  7. Laurie Kaufman

  8. Mayo Clinic
    Hyperthyroidism
    Symptoms & Causes
    https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hyperthyroidism/symptoms-causes/syc-20373659

  9. Mayo Clinic
    Hyperthyroidism
    Diagnosis and Treatment
    https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hyperthyroidism/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20373665

  10. University of Michigan
    Michigan Medicine
    Chelation Therapy
    https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/ty3205spec

  11. National Capital Poison Center
    Chelation: Therapy or "Therapy"?
    https://www.poison.org/articles/2011-mar/chelation-therapy

  12. Holly Nelson

  13. American thyroid Association
    Thyroid Nodules
    https://www.thyroid.org/thyroid-nodules/