Thyroid disease is a general medical term that encompasses any thyroid-affecting disorder. Some 20 million adults in the United States live with some form of thyroid disease, and about three in five (60%) people — many of whom are women — are unaware of their condition.

Why? The wide range of subtle health changes and non-specific symptoms that thyroid disease can cause are often dismissed outright, or mistaken for other, “more likely” medical concerns.

As a board-certified nurse practitioner who specializes in chronic disease management at Woodlands Vein Center & Preventative Medicine Clinic, Eliza Codd, ARNP, FNP-BC, AG-ACNP-BC, CLS, can help you find out if a thyroid problem is behind vague, unexplained health changes like fatigue, low mood, weight gain, constipation, and dry skin.

This January, in recognition of Thyroid Awareness Month, we discuss the ins and outs of normal thyroid function, and explore five possible signs of thyroid disease in women, who are far more likely than men to develop the problem.

A short tutorial on thyroid function

Located at the front of your neck, your thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped endocrine gland that makes and secretes important metabolism-controlling hormones. Metabolism is the complex, around-the-clock process of how your body produces, uses, and stores energy, and it affects the function of virtually every system and organ in your body.

By directing your metabolism, thyroid hormone has a significant influence over your energy levels as well as your body weight. It also regulates or influences a range of other important bodily functions and processes, including:

  • Heart rate
  • Digestion process
  • Respiration and body temperature
  • Cognitive activity and mood balance
  • Skin and bone tissue maintenance
  • Sex hormone production and fertility


Because the thyroid directs the complex metabolism process, anything that causes the gland to become abnormally overactive (hyperthyroidism) or underactive (hypothyroidism) can lead to a range of problems and bothersome symptoms.

Thyroid disease affects more women

Women are five to eight times more likely than men to develop a thyroid disorder, and one in eight women (12.5%) in the United States develops a thyroid problem at some point in life. But just as being female is a top risk factor for thyroid disease, so is older age.

Indeed, many common signs of thyroid dysfunction — such as low energy, quick weight gain, sleep difficulties, dry skin, and depressed mood — are often mistaken for routine menopause symptoms when they appear in women who are middle-aged or older.

Women may be more vulnerable to thyroid problems because the main causes behind hyperthyroidism (Graves’ disease) and hypothyroidism (Hashimoto’s disease) are immune system problems — and autoimmune disorders are more common in women.

Five possible signs of thyroid disease

As the most frequent thyroid disorder diagnosis, hypothyroidism affects about 5% of people in the U.S. and is five times more common than hyperthyroidism. With this condition, the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone, causing your body systems to slow down.


Most cases of hypothyroidism are relatively mild, meaning they cause few obvious symptoms. To make matters worse, the subtle physical, mental, or emotional changes they do cause tend to emerge slowly — and are easily mistaken for other health issues.

Five subtle signs that can indicate a possible thyroid disorder include:

1. Unexplained fatigue

Excessive daytime fatigue (even after a good night’s sleep) and easy energy depletion (even when you’re not stressed) are common indicators of an underactive thyroid.

2. Weight control challenges

The slowing body systems and sluggish metabolism that occur with hypothyroidism often lead to unexplained weight gain (even though you’re not eating more) and difficulty losing weight.

3. Mood and cognitive changes

An underactive thyroid is associated with an increase in forgetfulness, general “brain fog,” low mood, and depression.

4. Skin and hair changes

Hypothyroidism can leave your skin dry and make your hair feel thinner and coarser.

5. Irregular menstrual periods

An underactive thyroid can cause irregular menstrual periods as well as fertility problems.

Worried you may have thyroid issues?

Joint pain, muscle weakness, constipation, and feeling cold all the time are other possible indicators of an underactive thyroid. If you’re experiencing any of these subtle signs — particularly if fatigue and weight gain are present — see our team as soon as possible. In most cases, thyroid disease is easily treated with medication.

Give us a call today to learn more, or click online to schedule a visit at Woodlands Vein Center & Preventative Medicine Clinic in Shenandoah, Texas, any time.

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