Q and A Today: All About Thyroid Hormone

September 23, 2008

“Dear BodyLogicMD,

Lately, I have been feeling really “off”. I am fatigued and want to sleep all the time. And, I am gaining weight even though I have not changed my eating habits. My other concerns are dry skin and hair, constipation and hair loss. A few months ago, it was very different,  I was having manic bursts of energy and crazy hot flashes. I’m confused because it seems like I have some symptoms of both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, which run in my family.

My mom also mentioned that it might be menopause, but I’m still pretty young to be going through that, so I hope that isn’t the issue. Am I sick? What’s going on? Help!

M.B. – 35, California

“Dear M.B.,

First of all, let me assure you that you are not the only person who has ever felt confused and frustrated by some “unknown” illness. I agree that you are likely too young to be going through menopause, but it’s possible to go through an early menopause so that is one thing we would need to rule out. I would have to examine you and do blood work to be entirely sure.

You are right when you say that it sounds like you are having some symptoms of a thyroid hormone imbalance. The thyroid hormone is responsible for regulating metabolism, as well as acting as a “gas” pedal for the body’s processes, signaling them to speed up (in your case, during your “manic” energy bursts and sweating) or slow down (as in your weight gain and extreme fatigue). Many patients who are concerned about possible thyroid disease have a single test done (called a TSH or thyroid stimulating hormone). If this test is in the normal range, they are told they do not have any problem with their thyroid. However, there are a number of other tests that should be done to get the best picture of thyroid function. I would recommend you make an appointment with a qualified hormone specialist, especially since you have a family history of thyroid disease.

Good Luck!
Dr. Alicia Stanton

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