What is your thyroid?

The thyroid gland is an endocrine gland in your neck. It makes two hormones that your body needs for all your cells to function properly. Essentially your thyroid gland regulates the speed that your body cells work at.

When your thyroid is under worked or over worked this can cause imbalances in the hormones that are produced for thyroid function, which can in turn affect the way that your thyroid works.

Hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid)

Symptoms of hypothyroidism

Common symptoms include:

  • tiredness
  • weight gain
  • constipation
  • feeling cold
  • poor concentration
  • depression
  • muscle aches, cramps and/or weakness
  • dry and scaly skin
  • brittle hair and nails
  • loss of interest in sex (low libido)
  • pain, numbness and tingling sensation in hands and fingers (also known as carpal tunnel syndrome)
  • irregular or heavy periods

Treatment for hypothyroidism

An underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) is usually treated by taking a daily hormone replacement tablets called levothyroxine prescribed by your healthcare professional. This replaces the thyroxine hormone, which your thyroid does not make enough of.

To start with you'll have regular blood tests to ensure the correct dose of levothyroxine is reached for your body.

Some people start to feel better soon after starting treatment and for others it might take several months to see an improvement.

Once you're taking the correct dose, you'll usually need a blood test once a year to monitor your hormone levels.

If blood tests suggest that you may have an underactive thyroid, but you do not have any symptoms or they're very mild, you may not need any treatment at all. You'll just need to monitor your thyroid levels every few months.

An underactive thyroid can affect different age groups in different ways:

Elderly people with an underactive thyroid may develop memory problems and depression. Teenagers may start puberty earlier than normal. Children may experience slower growth and development.

Hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid)

Symptoms of hyperthyroidism

Common symptoms include:

  • hyperactivity or mood swings
  • difficulty sleeping
  • feeling tired all the time
  • muscle aches or weakness
  • diarrhoea
  • needing to urinate more often than usual
  • feeling thirsty
  • loss of interest in sex (low libido)
  • irritability and/or itchiness

Treatment for hyperthyroidism

An overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) can usually be treated by medication that is able to regulate your thyroid hormone levels to normal levels.

Alternative treatment methods include radioactive iodine treatment or surgery.