by Tobi Millrood

In 2012, our family received health news that would forever change our lives. My wife had cancer of the thyroid and would need surgery for removal, followed by immediate acute treatment and lifetime treatment for the resulting hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid).

Did you know that there are more than 3 million cases of hypothyroidism diagnosed each year in the U.S. For most, it is a diagnosis that comes about without cancer of the thyroid. Instead, most patients learn that their thyroid gland simply doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone. Because the thyroid gland regulates so much of the body, the effects of hypothyroidism are numerous. To really understand and empathize with those suffering from hypothyroidism, you should be aware of the many tell-tale experiences that people with an underactive thyroid definitely understand.

  1. An underactive thyroid can often affect the pace of the heart. Often times, hypothyroidism patients feel like their heart rate is running slow.
  2. Patients will feel down. Hypothyroidism affects the regulation of mood so many patients suffer from depression.
  3. Patients develop dry skin and feel like they constantly need to use lotion to prevent dry and flaky skin.
  4. A general sense of fogginess will come over patients and sometimes it might take a minute to answer simple questions like “what is your name?”
  5. Hypothyroidism affects hair and nails, so patients are constantly having broken nails and even broken hair.
  6. As a result of hypothyroidism, a patient’s face will feel puffy. Some people will notice it and even ask “is your face puffy?”
  7. Hypothyroidism can easily be associated with weight gain or difficulty losing weight.
  8. People with hypothyroidism frequently feel fatigued. More sleep feels like it’s always necessary.
  9. Patients feel cold. A lot. The body temperature can drop in hypothyroidism, so folks feel like they’re shivering and cold all the time.
  10. The condition of the hair changes from what used to be shiny and glossy to more of a straw-like texture.
  11. Too often, patients with hypothyroidism deal with constipation.
  12. Hypothyroidism requires medication, and the levels of medication change a lot. That means tests to periodically check levels and find the right dose of medication.
  13. Hypothyroidism will affect the joints, so patients feel like their joints ache a lot.
  14. It’s easy to develop colds because hypothyroidism also affects immunity. It feels a lot like you’re developing a cold or have a frog in your throat when you have hypothyroidism.
  15. In women, hypothyroidism can throw off the menstrual cycle and make it highly irregular.
  16. Pills, pills and more pills. Patients will have to be on thyroid pills indefinitely to manage the underactive thyroid.
  17. Checkups, checkups and more checkups. Because hypothyroidism fluctuates, frequent doctor visits are needed.
  18. Are they sick of fiber yet? High fiber diets can help offset some of the symptoms of hypothyroidism, so patients must get used to a lot of fiber.
  19. There’s no time like the present because forgetfulness can set in with hypothyroidism.
  20. Alarms matter a lot more because dozing off will happen from the tiredness that sets in.
  21. Hypothyroidism is associated with high cholesterol levels.
  22. It’s definitely not by choice, but the drive slows down—the drive to eat, sex drive and general energy levels—whether they like it or not, just drop.
  23. With fluid retention, patients feel bloated a lot.
  24. Turn up the heat! Patients will have increased sensitivity to cold temperatures.
  25. A patient’s voice will go hoarse quite a bit, which may be uncomfortable.

It’s clear from this list alone that patients with hypothyroidism encounter a lot of challenges every day. Because the symptoms of hypothyroidism permeate the body, it makes it all the more important to understand these struggles and share empathy. Helping to adjust and make loved ones not feel guilty about the changes to their bodies is key. More resources and opportunity for understanding the condition of hypothyroidism can be found at