With May being Thyroid Awareness Month we focus improving your Knowledge about Thyroid health. Whether or not you have a diagnosed Thyroid condition there are some surprising facts to know. If you are unfamiliar with Thyroid conditions or need a quick refresher – read our general information here and here. Chances are you know someone with a Thyroid problem since Thyroid disorders are very common, affecting about 10-15% of the population.(2) Many people lack Thyroid Awareness and remain undiagnosed for years as symptoms and dysfunction slowly progress. This is partly because some health concerns are the type of issues that may simply be addressed on their own, without consideration for Thyroid health. Clues about an undiagnosed Thyroid problem could even come from the Dentists chair.
In this BLOG we take a look at some lesser known signs and symptoms to help increase awareness about the wide range of Thyroid health problems that can occur in association with poor Thyroid function. We focus from the neck up including Oral health, Vocal health and Brain health which could show telltale signs that your Thyroid gland and Hormones are effecting a range of change with lasting consequences. One of the reasons for this is that Brain health and teeth can be adversely affected since the central nervous system and the skeleton are two of the most important target tissues(1) of Thyroid Hormones.
Here is what to know and the signs to look out for:
Neck Health: Important tip: If you have difficulty swallowing or feel any sensations in your throat, seek advice and make sure to enquire about your thyroid health
Look for any changes in the neck region. The thyroid gland may become enlarged (diffuse goitre) and/or contain individual lumps called Nodules (Nodular Goitre).(3) Sometimes a Goitre can be visible externally. Medically they are not considered as anything serious since they are only rarely cancer.(3) A thyroid ultrasound is an essential part of the diagnosis and measurement of the gland size is an essential component in evaluation and follow-up of thyroid pathologies.(4) If you have a diagnosed thyroid condition but have never had a thyroid ultrasound, consider requesting this at your next Doctor or Specialist visit. From a Naturopathic perspective we aim at improving the health of Thyroid gland by targeting tissue with nutrients and herbal medicines and diet and lifestyle advice, including avoidance of goitrogenic foods.
Oral health: Important tip: If your dentist needs to take X-rays, or in fact anytime you need X-rays, make sure you ask for protective gear for the thyroid (often called a collar)
Signs which can be associated with a thyroid problem include:(5)
- Macroglossia (enlarged tongue)
- Dysgeusia (altered sense of taste)
- Delayed eruption or accelerated dental eruption
- Poor periodontal health
- Altered tooth morphology
- Delayed wound healing (eg. of the oral cavity)
- Maxillary or mandibular osteoporosis (affecting the jaw bone)
- Burning mouth syndrome
- Dry mouth
Vocal Health: Important tip: If you are prone to sore throats or losing your voice easily then discuss further investigations relating to Thyroid health with your Doctor
Voice quality can be affected by thyroid disease, since there are Thyroid hormone receptors found in the larynx.(6) Hypothyroidism can cause notable voice changes, such as low voice, roughness, reduced range, and vocal fatigue.(6)
Brain health: Important tip: Treating the cause of the problem is more likely to improve the symptoms, so thyroid needs to be on the radar when it comes to changes in mental and cognitive health
Thyroid plays a vital role in activation of the nervous system, leading to improved concentration and faster reflexes.(3) On the other hand, lack of Thyroid Hormone action in the adult brain causes impaired neurocognitive function and psychiatric states such as severe depression and dementia.(1) The hormones play a crucial role as a regulator of nervous system myelination,(7) preserving the connectivity and functions of a healthy nervous system.(8) Disturbance of hormone synthesis and actions require special attention in specific life phases(1) including infancy and in association with pregnancy as well as advanced age.
Infants require early diagnosis and treatment of Thyroid pathologies to prevent irreversible and permanent nervous system damage and developmental delay.(7) In pregnancy, inadequate amounts of thyroid hormones impacts neurological maturation and development, leading to poorer school performance and lower IQ.(9)
Thyroid hormone has important actions in the adult brain(10) and impairment can become more noticeable with age. Neuropsychiatric symptoms (emotional and cognitive problems) can be the result of the direct effects of thyroid disease, as well as hormone deprivation in brain tissue.(10) Even mild thyroid failure can have a number of clinical effects such as depression, memory loss and cognitive impairment.(11) More severe hypothyroidism can mimic melancholic depression and dementia.(10)
Thyroid Health is a Key Player to Overall Health
The master endocrine gland has strong influence over organ systems. The overlap in the signs and symptoms experienced that don’t always appear to be direct result of Thyroid dysfunction means there is a need for increased awareness in relation to a wide range of health issues. Naturopathic treatment applies the principles of Treating the Whole Person and Identifying the Cause which can allow for deeper considerations when it comes to the interrelationship of health concerns that may lead back to Thyroid health. Look out for future blogs in the coming months on Thyroid health related issues including Thyroid and Fertility. To further improve your Thyroid Awareness you may like to read our recent Blog on Toxins impacting Hormone health.