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"How can I tell if I have a problem with my thyroid gland?"
I have infrequent periods and high anxiety. Is this symptomatic of thyroid problems?
There are different symptoms that a person could experience when they have thyroid problems and often these symptoms can overlap with other endocrinologic disorders. You should speak with you primary care physician regarding your symptoms and best course for evaluation. The thyroid gland produces a hormone thyroxine, T4, which is converted to T3 and is important in metabolism and development. The hypothalamus (a structure in the brain) produces TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) which stimulates the thyroid gland to produce thyroxine. When these hormone levels are abnormal, then a patient can develop symptoms of abnormal thyroid activity. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism (high thyroid level) include heat intolerance, weight loss, increased appetite, anxiety, reduction in menstrual flow or oligomenorrhea (decreased frequency of menstrual cycles), heart palpitations, and tremor. Symptoms of hypothyroidism (low thyroid level) include fatigue, weight gain, constipation, headache, coarse skin, menstrual irregularities, and cold intolerance. There are other causes of infrequent periods including Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) which is one the main causes of abnormal ovulation. Other symptoms of PCOS include hyperandrogenism, obesity, and insulin resistance. If after speaking with your physician there is concern for abnormal thyroid activity, blood work can be done. A TSH level is often obtained as a screening test. However, if that is even slightly abnormal other testing is often required including T4 and T3 levels and occasionally other hormone levels. You should speak to your primary care physician regarding your symptoms, need for further evaluation and possible consultation with a specialist.
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