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Cheat Sheet

Thyroid For Dummies (UK Edition)

Thyroid problems affect around 4.5 million people in the UK. If you suffer from a thyroid condition, this Cheat Sheet is here to help you to recognise and manage your symptoms, and avoid the triggers that can cause a flare-up of thyroid problems.

Maximising Your Thyroid Health

You can take action to improve your thyroid health. If you’re concerned that you have – or may have – a problem with your thyroid, you should bear in mind the following advice:

  • If thyroid disease runs in your family, ask your doctor about screening for thyroid diseases at appropriate intervals.

  • If you have a thyroid problem, check your thyroid function during times of major body changes, such as pregnancy.

  • Make sure you get enough iodine in your diet, especially if you are a vegetarian.

  • If you’ve taken thyroid hormone replacement for several years to treat hypothyroidism (low thyroid function), ask your doctor if you can try stopping treatment to see if your thyroid can function without it.

  • If you still experience symptoms of hypothyroidism while taking hormone replacement pills, ask your doctor if you can try taking both types of thyroid hormone (T4 and T3), although this is controversial.

  • Remember that some medications can interact with thyroid hormones.

  • Protect your thyroid from radiation. If your neck has had exposure to radiation in the past, ensure your doctor knows that.

Signs and Symptoms of Low Thyroid Function

Someone with hypothyroidism – an under-active thyroid gland – often experiences some of the following signs and symptoms. Keep in mind that these symptoms alone can’t diagnose thyroid disease, and thyroid disease is sometimes present even if you don’t experience all these symptoms.

  • Slow pulse

  • Enlarged thyroid (unless removed during previous thyroid treatment)

  • Dry, cool skin that is puffy, pale and yellowish

  • Brittle nails and dry, brittle hair that falls out excessively

  • Swelling, especially of the legs

  • Hoarseness, slow speech and a thickened tongue

  • Slow reflexes

  • Intolerance to cold

  • Tiredness and a need to sleep excessively

  • Constipation

  • Increased menstrual flow

Signs and Symptoms of Excessive Thyroid Function

Someone with hyperthyroidism – an over-active thyroid gland – may experience some or all of the following symptoms. The same caution about symptoms of hypothyroidism applies here; these symptoms alone don’t confirm a diagnosis. Only blood tests can do this.

  • Higher body temperature and intolerance to heat

  • Weight loss

  • Weakness

  • Enlarged thyroid

  • Warm, moist skin

  • Rapid pulse

  • Tremor of the fingers and tongue

  • Nervousness

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Rapid mood changes

  • Decreased menstrual flow

  • More frequent bowel movements

  • Changes to the eyes that make it appear as if you’re staring

Medications to Watch Out For in Thyroid Conditions

Certain drugs can interact with your thyroid hormone to negatively affect your thyroid function. These are just a few commonly used medications that can affect your thyroid:

  • Amiodarone

  • Aspirin (more than 3,000 milligrams daily)

  • Oestrogen (for example, in hormone replacement therapy, or in the oral contraceptive pill)

  • Iron tablets

  • Iodine

  • Lithium

  • Propranolol

  • Corticosteroids

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