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The thyroid is a small gland in the neck found just in front of the windpipe.
One of its main functions is to produce thyroid hormones, which control your metabolism – the process of converting food into energy.
Having too much – hyperthyroidism – or too little – hypothyroidism – thyroid hormones can have a significant impact on your body. In extreme cases it cause death, increasing your risk of medical emergencies such as cardiac arrest, heart failure and stroke.
According to the British Thyroid Foundation, around one in 20 people in the UK have some kind of a thyroid problem.
However, the warning signs can be easily overlooked or confused for something else.
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There are three signs in particular that could be mistaken for just the body’s reaction to colder weather.
Llinos Connolly, clinical services sister at Benenden Health, spoke with Express.co.uk to explain more.
Sensitivity to the cold
Being cold is a common feeling, especially as winter approaches, but it could be a sign of an underactive thyroid, she warned.
She said: “The constant feeling of being cold, even when layered up or sat in a heated room, could be a sign of thyroid problems.
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“If your thyroid gland is not producing enough hormones, you won’t get as much energy from your food which can lead to your body not having enough energy to fuel your metabolism and regulate your temperature.”
Fatigue and exhaustion
Feeling tired can be a natural reaction to temperatures dropping and the nights drawing in.
But Llinos shared how it is another tell-tale sign of hypothyroidism.
“Most people could probably benefit from a bit of extra sleep, however, having an early night or late morning will not fix the fatigue caused by thyroid issues,” she said.
“If you feel tired all the time, no matter how many hours of sleep you get, and are also experiencing pain in your joints and muscles, this could also be a sign that your thyroid is not producing enough hormones.
“To figure out if your fatigue is thyroid-related or another sleep issue, try to get into a good sleep routine first.
“Then, if the symptom of exhaustion persists, book an appointment with your GP. “
Unexpected weight fluctuations
Many of us gain weight in the winter months as we become less active, making it hard to spot this symptom.
Llinos commented: “While it might not be something that you notice immediately, if you are gaining or losing weight easily (without making any lifestyle changes), your thyroid could be the cause.
“With an underactive thyroid, your body will struggle to convert any food consumed into energy.
“So, it stays in your body either being converted into fat or is retained as water or salt, resulting in weight gain over time.
“In contrast, an overactive thyroid means that your body is producing too many hormones, with too much food being converted into energy which can result in weight loss, especially if your daily calorie intake is not enough.”
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, we recommend booking an appointment with a medical professional to discuss further.
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