12 Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

by Mary Shomon Patient Advocate

Hypothyroidism — an underactive thyroid — affects millions of people in the United States. A slowdown in this master gland of metabolism can affect many of your bodily processes and cause many symptoms. Here is a look at 12 common hypothyroidism symptoms you may experience.

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Bowel trouble

Hard stools and severe constipation — especially when unrelieved with treatment — are often early signs of undiagnosed or poorly treated hypothyroidism. If you are experiencing this symptom, talk to your healthcare provider about your bowel-related symptoms.

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Thinning, dry, brittle hair

Hair loss is a common sign of an underactive thyroid. In addition to thinning hair and excessive shedding, you may also notice that your hair is dry, brittle, and breaks more easily. A unique hypothyroidism symptom to watch for is the loss of hair from the outer edge of your eyebrows.

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Irregular menstrual periods and infertility

When your thyroid is underactive, you may experience heavier, more painful menstrual periods, or your periods may come more frequently, and last longer. Hypothyroidism is also associated with an increased risk of infertility — including early and recurrent miscarriage. If you have irregular periods or are finding it difficult to get pregnant, a thorough thyroid evaluation is an important step.

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Muscle, joint, and nerve pain

Noticeable pain in your muscles, joints, and nerves may be a sign of undiagnosed hypothyroidism. You may also have pain and weakness in your hands, wrists, and forearms — known as carpal tunnel syndrome — or pain in your shins and feet due to tarsal tunnel syndrome and plantar fasciitis.

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High cholesterol

When you have high cholesterol levels that don’t respond to changes in your diet, increased exercise, or cholesterol-lowering supplements and medications, this can be a sign that you have undiagnosed or insufficiently treated hypothyroidism.

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Weight gain

With hypothyroidism, you may experience weight gain — no matter how rigorous your diet and exercise program. You may even gain weight despite following a strict weight loss program. If you can't seem to shed any unwanted pounds, it's definitely time to rule out an underactive thyroid as the cause.

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Extreme and ongoing fatigue is a common symptom of hypothyroidism. Even if you are getting seven or more hours of sleep per night, when your thyroid is underactive, you may wake unrefreshed, or need extra naps to make it through the day.

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Skin changes

Hypothyroidism can affect the skin on your face and body, making it pale, dry, itchy, rough, scaly, wrinkled, yellowish in color, or calloused.

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Puffy face and extremities

Hypothyroidism can cause puffiness, fluid retention, and swelling, known as edema. You may notice this symptom in your face and around your eyes, as well as in your hands and feet.

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Depression and mental health symptoms

A variety of mental health symptoms are associated with an underactive thyroid. Most common in hypothyroidism is depression, but anxiety and other mood changes are also common, especially in older patients.

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Cold sensitivity

Feeling cold when it’s hot inside or out — and being especially sensitive to cold temperatures — are symptoms that are common in people with hypothyroidism. One particularly well-known sign of an underactive thyroid is cold hands and feet. If you are especially sensitive to the cold, it’s worth having a thorough thyroid check-up.

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Heart problems

Thyroid hormones are closely linked with heart rate and heart output and may affect cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and heart function. If along with other aforementioned symptoms, you are experiencing heart problems, ask your doctor about the possibility of hypothyroidism.

Mary Shomon
Meet Our Writer
Mary Shomon

Mary Shomon is a patient advocate and New York Times bestselling author who empowers readers with information on thyroid and autoimmune disease, diabetes, weight loss and hormonal health from an integrative perspective. Mary has been a leading force advocating for more effective, patient-centered hormonal healthcare. Mary also co-stars in PBS’ Healthy Hormones TV series. Mary also serves on HealthCentral’s Health Advocates Advisory Board.