Can thyroid problems cause headaches?

Can Thyroid Problems Cause Headaches?

Medically reviewed on January 7, 2022. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.


Headaches are one of the most common conditions in the entire world. They come in a wide range of forms, from sinus headaches to migraines, but the most common type is the tension headache. Despite being extremely common, tension headaches don’t have a known cause, though numerous factors can contribute to them. Thyroid health may be one of those factors. Learn more about thyroid problems and headaches below (and consider learning more about the at-home thyroid test).

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What Is Your Thyroid Gland?

Your thyroid gland is located at the front of your throat, wrapped around your windpipe. While small and butterfly-shaped, the thyroid function is mighty. The thyroid’s function is to produce and secrete chemicals known as thyroid hormones. The two thyroid hormones are triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) [1].

The most prominent role of the thyroid is regulating and controlling your metabolism, which is the process by which your body turns food into energy. Thyroid hormones also play important roles in brain function, muscle control, digestion, and maintaining your bones [1].

Thyroid Disease Symptoms

Although the thyroid is most significantly involved in metabolism, any thyroid problem or its ability to produce and secrete its hormones can contribute to some severe health issues affecting all parts of the body. These malfunctions can be caused by a wide range of diseases and factors, including thyroiditis (inflammation of the thyroid), certain medications, and Hashimoto’s disease [1].

Symptoms of a thyroid disorder can vary based on whether the gland is an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) or an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism). Hyperthyroidism symptoms may include:

  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Anxiety, nervousness, or irritability
  • Sudden fatigue or muscle weakness
  • Sleep problems
  • Changes in your menstrual patterns [2]

Hypothyroidism symptoms may include:

  • Sudden fatigue or muscle weakness
  • Unintended weight gain
  • Stiff, painful, and swollen joints
  • Depression
  • Memory issues
  • Irregular or heavy menstrual periods [3]

Thyroid and Headaches

Some research points to a potential link between headaches, particularly migraines, and hypothyroidism. Studies suggest a bidirectional relationship between hypothyroidism and headaches. This means that those more prone to headaches and migraines may be more vulnerable to hypothyroidism, and hypothyroidism may contribute to experiencing more headaches or migraines.

More research is necessary to fully, or conclusively, understand the potential connection to the autoimmune disorder. You may experience headaches as a byproduct of the symptoms of thyroid disease. For example, extended sleep issues that occur with the autoimmune disorder of hyperthyroidism can result in headaches and thyroid fatigue [4]. Constant fatigue and muscle weakness can also contribute to headaches. Both anxiety and depression can potentially manifest headaches.

If you have frequent headaches, it’s worth seeing your healthcare provider and potentially getting your thyroid levels tested. Everlywell offers an easy at-home thyroid test that measures your thyroid hormone levels to determine any abnormalities or thyroid dysfunction.

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References

1. Thyroid Hormones. Hormone Health Network. URL. Accessed January 7, 2022.

2. Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid). Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed January 7, 2022.

3. Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed January 7, 2022.

4. Could it be my thyroid? Harvard Health Publishing. URL. Accessed January 7, 2022.

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