Underactive Thyroid Symptoms

The thyroid gland affects many different parts of the body. Therefore, the symptoms of an underactive thyroid will vary widely -- in fact, some people do not experience symptoms at all. Possible signs include decreased sweating, irregular menstrual periods, dry skin, and loss of eyebrows. In addition, certain medical conditions often accompany hypothyroidism, such as sleep apnea, celiac disease, and erectile dysfunction.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of an Underactive Thyroid?

Thyroid hormones play a role in the normal functioning of many different parts of the body, including:
  • The skin
  • Blood
  • Heart and blood vessels
  • The nervous system
  • The reproductive system
  • The digestive system.
Therefore, when a person has an underactive thyroid, many different areas of the body can be affected.
Which areas are affected and the subsequent signs or symptoms of hypothyroidism can be quite different from person to person. In fact, some people with low thyroid hormone levels may have no symptoms.
Factors such as the person's age when they were first diagnosed and how low the thyroid hormone levels are will affect which symptoms occur and their severity.
Signs and symptoms of an underactive thyroid can include:
  • Tiredness (fatigue) and sluggishness
  • Weight gain
  • Slow movement and speech
  • Constipation
  • Increased sensitivity to cold
  • Puffy face
  • Swelling around the eyes
  • Loss of eyebrows
  • Joint and muscle pain, aches, and stiffness
  • Pale, dry, rough, and thick skin
  • Dry, thinning, or coarse hair
  • Brittle nails
  • A horse voice
  • An enlarged tongue
  • Decrease in taste
  • Decreased sweating
  • Heavy or irregular menstrual periods
  • Infertility
  • Miscarriage in early pregnancy
  • Depression
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Swollen ankles
  • Decreased hearing
  • Mild high blood pressure
  • Difficulty catching your breath (severe shortness of breath) when exercising
  • Decreased ability to exercise.
Depending on the particular situation, a person may have symptoms that develop slowly, such as feeling tired, or that are attributed to just getting older (dry skin, constipation, sensitivity to the cold, etc.). After a couple of years, more obvious symptoms and signs of hypothyroidism may become apparent.

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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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