Published January 18 2016
Before you read this article about some of the common hypothyroid symptoms, it’s important to understand that everyone is different, and therefore it’s not uncommon for people with hypothyroidism to experience different symptoms. And so as you go through this list, remember that not everyone with a hypothyroid condition will experience all of these symptoms. Also, this list isn’t all-inclusive, as there can be other symptoms as well, although these are some of the most common ones. In addition to these seven common symptoms, I’m also going to list some additional symptoms people with hypothyroidism can experience.
Hypothyroid Symptom #1: Fatigue. This is one of the most common hypothyroid symptoms, and probably THE most common one I see with my patients who have hypothyroidism. Low thyroid hormone levels commonly result in fatigue. However, it’s important to understand that many other factors can also lead to fatigue, including adrenal problems, low iron levels, and an infection, just to name a few. This is one of the main reasons why increasing the thyroid hormone levels by taking synthetic or natural thyroid hormone medication doesn’t always help to decrease the person’s fatigue.
Hypothyroid Symptom #2: Cold hands and feet. This is a classic symptom of hypothyroidism, although once again, not everyone with a hypothyroid condition experiences cold hands and feet.
Hypothyroid Symptom #3: Weight gain. While nobody likes to deal with any of the common symptoms of hypothyroidism, gaining weight is of course one of the main symptoms people with this condition become concerned about. While increasing the thyroid hormone levels will frequently help someone to shed their unwanted pounds, sometimes other factors are responsible for the weight gain. Of course poor diet and lack of exercise are common causes of gaining weight, but other factors include an imbalance of the hormones estrogen and progesterone, inflammation, and even environmental toxins.
Hypothyroid Symptom #4: Memory and concentration problems. It’s very common for people with hypothyroidism to have issues with memory and concentration. Some will describe these symptoms as “foggy thinking” or “brain fog”. For more information on this you can check out the article “5 Common Causes of Brain Fog“.
Hypothyroid Symptom #5: Hair loss. Along with gaining weight, this might be one of the more frustrating symptoms people with hypothyroidism experience. Other factors which can cause hair loss include certain nutrient deficiencies (i.e. iron, biotin, gamma-linolenic acid), along with estrogen dominance.
Hypothyroid Symptom #6: Constipation. The slow metabolism associated with hypothyroidism frequently results in constipation. While some people with hypothyroid conditions get very concerned with not having regular bowel movements, others aren’t as concerned about this problem. And while there’s nothing wrong with wanting to improve one’s energy level, think clearer, lose weight, and stop losing hair, many people don’t realize the negative health consequences of not having at least one or two daily bowel movements. Of course this isn’t an issue with everyone who has hypothyroidism, but for those who do have constipation, it’s important to correct this problem.
Hypothyroid Symptom #7: Insomnia. Having problems falling and/or staying asleep isn’t necessarily a “classic” symptom associated with hypothyroidism, although it is commonly experienced by people with an underactive thyroid. If increasing the thyroid hormone levels doesn’t help with this, then other factors need to be considered, such as elevated nighttime cortisol levels, blood sugar issues, or neurotransmitter imbalances.
Just a reminder that not everyone with hypothyroidism will experience all of these symptoms I discussed. For example, someone might experience fatigue, weight gain, and brain fog, but perhaps not experience constipation. To some extent it does depend on the severity of the condition, as someone with extremely depressed thyroid hormone levels in all likelihood will have worse symptoms than someone with borderline low thyroid hormone levels, although this isn’t always the case. Also, not only doesn’t everyone with hypothyroidism have all of these classic symptoms, but every now and then I’ll come across a patient with hypothyroidism who has a good amount of energy, or in some cases is underweight and is actually looking to put on a few pounds. Although this isn’t common, it’s a good reason why you need to evaluate everyone individually.
In addition, keep in mind that other imbalances can also be causing or contributing to these symptoms. For example, someone with hypothyroidism can also have adrenal problems, and this can also cause some similar symptoms, such as fatigue, weight gain, or problems with sleep. Many people with hypothyroidism have the condition known as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, which is actually not a thyroid condition, but an autoimmune condition that affects the thyroid gland. And while most medical doctors will just give thyroid hormone medication to help manage the symptoms, this of course doesn’t do anything to address the immune system component of Hashimoto’s.
Other Symptoms People With Hypothyroidism Might Experience
In addition to the more common symptoms I listed above, some people with hypothyroidism will experience one or more of the following symptoms:
Muscle and/or joint pain
How Is Hypothyroidism Diagnosed?
Overt hypothyroidism is characterized by an elevated TSH and depressed thyroid hormone levels. However, many medical doctors will just look at the TSH, and if this is elevated they will diagnose the person with hypothyroidism. Although an elevated TSH is usually indicative of hypothyroidism, it’s important to look at other values as well. I discuss this in greater detail in other articles I’ve written, but I would at the very least try to get the TSH, free T3, free T4, thyroid peroxidase antibodies, and thyroglobulin antibodies tested.
How To Overcome These Hypothyroid Symptoms
The conventional medical approach for treating hypothyroidism involves having the person take thyroid hormone medication. And while this frequently will help with the hypothyroid symptoms, there are a few problems with this. First of all, while many people feel much better after taking thyroid hormone medication, this isn’t always the case. One reason can be due to some of the artificial ingredients and fillers included in most brands of synthetic thyroid hormone. Another reason is because the thyroid hormone medication isn’t addressing the underlying cause of the condition.
Although some people do need to take thyroid hormone medication, at the same time the primary goal should be to address the underlying cause of the problem. Correcting the problem might mean that the person won’t need to take thyroid hormone medication, although some people do need to take either synthetic or natural thyroid hormone.
In summary, although there are some “classic” hypothyroid symptoms many people with hypothyroidism experience, not everyone will have the same symptoms. In addition to the seven common symptoms I listed in this article, there are many other symptoms people can experience. Most medical doctors will prescribe thyroid hormone medication when someone has hypothyroidism, and while this might be necessary at times, it also is important to address the underlying cause of the condition.