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Aberdeen surgeon explains everything you need to know about thyroid problems

Woman with thyroid problem holding onto her throat with both hands in pain next to the 'health explainer' logo
Lump in your throat or hoarse? What are the signs of a thyroid problem and why it's important to get a diagnosis

Sweating more than usual? Feeling too hot or cold? An Aberdeen surgeon has warned people not to ignore the potentially life-threatening signs of a thyroid problem.

Muhammed Shakeel is a consultant and thyroid surgeon at Albyn Hospital.

He says problems with your thyroid are quite common – but affect many more women than they do men.

These can cause the gland to over- or under-produce certain hormones, leading to all sorts of health complications.

Sleepiness, feeling cold and aches: Signs of an underactive thyroid

Muhammed says there are a number of signs you might be dealing with an underactive thyroid.

If this is the case, it’s likely because of a lack of iodine in your body.

The main symptoms can develop quite slowly – so you might be be aware of any sudden changes.

Muhammed Shakeel who is explaining signs you have a thyroid problem
Muhammed Shakeel

Psychological signs: Depression, poor memory, inability to concentrate and sleepiness.

Physical symptoms: Dry skin, feeling cold, weight gain, loss of appetite, hair loss, constipation, muscle pain, hearing loss, hoarseness and blurred vision.

Those experiencing hypothyroidism (an under-active thyroid) may also have jaundiced skin, dull facial expression, coarse facial features, straw-like hair, slowed speech and movements.

Woman with thyroid problem suffering from dry, straw-like hair

Both men and women can have an underactive thyroid, though it’s more commonly seen in women.

Children also have the ability to develop an underactive thyroid and in some cases infants are born with this condition.

It’s usually treated with a daily tablet.

Feeling warm, shaky and anxious: Signs of an overactive thyroid

An overactive thyroid, also known as hyperthyroidism, is where the thyroid gland produces too much of the thyroid hormones.

Physical symptoms: Sweating more, feeling hot, fewer periods, irregular heart-raid.

Psychological symptoms: Anxiety, nervousness, hyperactivity and mood swings.

Visual signs someone has an overactive thyroid include drooping eyelids, shaky hands and an enlarged, swollen thyroid gland – which can also be a sign of thyroid cancer.

Woman with thyroid problem starring very widely without knowingly doing so

What are the complications that come with a thyroid problem?

Muhammed says that, over time, an untreated underactive thyroid can increase your changes of developing heart disease, high cholesterol, swelling in your throat and pregnancy complications.

An overactive thyroid can also lead to problems with your heart, bones, eyes and skin.

Could my thyroid problem be cancer?

The surgeon is urging people to speak to their doctor with any concerns about their health – particularly if they develop a lump in their neck.

“As the thyroid gland is butterfly-shaped, any lump in it could be located on the front part of the neck just below the Adam’s apple,” he explained.

This moves up and down with swallowing, and any lump that stays for more than three weeks should be assessed by a surgeon.

“Fortunately, most thyroid lumps do not have cancer.

Woman with thyroid problem with swollen lump on her thyroid gland

“However, given their location, one can experience discomfort, pressure in the neck, difficulty swallowing, effortful breathing, a choking sensation, snoring and disturbed sleep.”

Additionally, he says any feelings of pain in the lump, neck or ear, a voice change, or shortness of breath, could suggest the presence of cancer.

Thyroid cancer is rare, and around 95% of neck lumps aren’t cancerous.

Muhammed added: “Urgent and timely investigations of a thyroid lump would allow potentially curable surgery.”

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