Thyroid Gland Self-Examination

thyroid gland self-examination

It is very easy to misinterpret. Weight gain, disrupted sleep cycles, hair fall and hoarse throat are vague symptoms. Thyroid disorders can easily be misinterpreted.

Despite being the second most frequent endocrine problem apart from diabetes, thyroid disorders mostly go undiagnosed for a long time. This is because some thyroid disorders start slow and manifest in the form of symptoms only later.

When an underactive or over active thyroid remains undiagnosed, it can lead to sudden complications. In the long term, it can lead to heart disease, infertility, eye problems, osteoporosis and many others. In pregnant women, it can even lead to birth defects of the fetus, miscarriage, and premature birth.

Symptoms and signs often neglected in Thyroid Diseases

Considering the high presence of thyroid disorders in India and the complications it can lead to, it is important to understand symptoms and signs that you have a thyroid disorder.

  • Anxiety
  • Constipation/diarrhea
  • Depression
  • Exhaustion and Fatigue
  • Change in menstrual cycles
  • Unusual/unintentional weight gain
  • Intolerance to heat/cold
  • Dry skin
  • Hair fall
  • Decreased libido
  • Sleeplessness
  • Heart palpitations

It is common for many people to misinterpret these symptoms and not think of thyroid disorders. However, as the dysfunction of thyroid glands progress, these symptoms increase further and can lead to serious illnesses.

In people with underactive thyroid, improperly treated or undiagnosed hypothyroidism can lead to complications like:

  • Slow metabolism
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nerve disorders with burning, tingling, or numbness
  • Goiter – swelling in the neck with difficulty eating and swallowing
  • Breathing disorders
  • Heart disease due to increase in LDL cholesterol
  • Myxedema – a condition that causes coma due to slow heart rate and respiratory rate

In people with overactive thyroid or hyperthyroidism, improper management can lead to complications like:

  • Arrhythmia – irregular heart beat
  • Hypertension – high blood pressure
  • Osteoporosis – brittle bones leading to frequent fractures
  • Thinning of the muscles of heart
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Eye problems – blurry vision, bulging eyes
  • Thyrotoxic crisis leading to delirium

Self-examination of Thyroid Glands

If you have a family history of thyroid disorders, or if you are experiencing any symptoms, a self-examination of the thyroid glands can help in detecting any abnormalities.

The thyroid gland is located in the center of the neck and below the Adam’s apple and above the notch of breastbone. For self-examination:

  1. You need a small mirror that you can hold with your hand and a glass of water.
  2. With one hand hold the mirror and focus it on the lower area of the neck. This should be above the collar bone and below the voice box.
  3. As you are focusing on this area, slightly tilt your neck.
  4. Now, take a glass of water and gently swallow.
  5. While swallowing, check in the mirror for any bulges or protrusions apart from the Adam’s apple.
  6. If you see the same bulge after performing this exam several times, it might be due to enlarged thyroid glands or because of a thyroid nodule.

You should contact a physician or an endocrinologist in case of any protrusions or bulges in this self-examination.