A small gland at the base of your neck, your thyroid performs a number of important tasks for your body. It produces an essential hormone that controls many major functions, including how effectively you burn calories and how quickly your heart beats. Thyroid problems are far more common than most people realize, and the symptoms are too often ignored or attributed to other causes.

Women are far more likely than men to develop a thyroid disease; in fact, one out of every eight women will develop a problem with their thyroid at some point in their lives. Men may also develop thyroid issues, however, and should be aware of symptoms that they should have checked out by a doctor. Sudden or unexplained loss or gain in weight is one of the most common indications that you may suffer from a thyroid problem.

There are two main types of thyroid disease:

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is a condition in which your thyroid gland does not produce enough of the essential thyroid hormones. Also known as underactive thyroid, this condition slows down a number of body processes including your metabolism. Symptoms of hypothyroidism may include:

  1. Weight gain, particularly if you not eating any more food than usual
  2. Feeling cold when other people don’t
  3. Sweating less often or less intensely than you usually do
  4. Muscle weakness and pain
  5. Achiness and joint pain
  6. General fatigue
  7. Depression
  8. Forgetfulness
  9. Constipation or less frequent bowel movements
  10. Pale and/or dry skin
  11. Puffy appearance of your face
  12. Hair loss or thinning of your hair
  13. Slower than usual heart rate
  14. Higher blood cholesterol
  15. Hoarse throat
  16. Increased menstrual bleeding in women

Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism, on the other hand, means that your thyroid gland is producing too much of the required thyroid hormones. Also known as an overactive thyroid, this condition speeds up your body processes including metabolism. It is important to note that older adults tend to experience fewer indicators of an overactive thyroid. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism may include:

  1. Weight loss, particularly if you not eating less than usual
  2. Feeling hot when other people don’t
  3. Sweating more often or less intensely than you usually do
  4. Muscle weakness and pain
  5. General fatigue
  6. Difficulty sleeping
  7. More frequent or unusual bowel movements
  8. Enlarged thyroid gland
  9. Rapid or irregular heart rate
  10. Increased appetite
  11. Tremors
  12. Thinning of your skin
  13. Fine or brittle hair
  14. Changes in menstruation for women

Any time you experience new or unusual symptoms, it’s a good idea to see your doctor. In particular, unexplained weight loss or weight gain and swelling at the base of the neck are important indications that you need to get checked out sooner, rather than later. Simple blood tests can tell you whether or not you need additional treatment. The good news is that, most of the time, treatment is simple and your symptoms should resolve quickly.