Thyroid fatigue

Thyroid Fatigue: Key Points to Know

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.


It’s normal for the average person to feel physically exhausted every so often. Whether you had a long day or exerted extra energy during your workout, feeling tired or fatigued is generally nothing to worry about. However, suppose you feel physical fatigue consistently and on a regular basis. In that case, that can seriously undermine your quality of life, and you may be dealing with a more serious, underlying issue.

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Ongoing fatigue can be rooted in numerous different health conditions and disorders. One of the most common is thyroid disease. Thyroid problems can have a considerable impact on all components of health. Learn more about thyroid fatigue and how to manage it below.


Check if your thyroid hormones are balanced from the convenience of home with the Everlywell at-home Thyroid Test.


What Is Your Thyroid?

Your thyroid gland is located at the front of your neck wrapped around your windpipe. This small, butterfly-shaped gland is responsible for producing the thyroid hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). These hormones are primarily involved with regulating your metabolism, which comprises all the processes involved with turning the food you eat and beverages you drink into usable energy [1].

Outside of metabolism, thyroid hormones also play a role in:

  • Supporting heart and muscle function
  • Controlling digestive functions
  • Maintaining bone health [1]

Understanding Thyroid Problems

Learning how to understand thyroid levels is important. Thyroid hormone levels are carefully controlled by your body’s pituitary gland and hypothalamus. However, even with these glands working properly, the thyroid can malfunction, causing problems with thyroid hormone levels. These malfunctions can be caused by numerous factors, including autoimmune diseases and certain medications. Therefore, it is important to learn the early signs of thyroid problems [1].

A thyroid disorder can manifest in several different ways. While it is well-known for controlling metabolism, it’s worth understanding how your metabolism is involved with basically every process within the body. Furthermore, imbalances in any of the body’s hormones can cause fluctuations in other hormones, which can then lead to health issues [1].

Exact symptoms of thyroid imbalances will vary from person to person, and an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) may present different symptoms from an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism). General symptoms of an imbalanced thyroid can include sudden weight fluctuations, changes in mood (often resulting in depression and/or anxiety), sleep problems, and irregular menstrual periods. One of the most common symptoms of thyroid disease is intense fatigue [1].

Understanding Thyroid Fatigue

While hyperthyroidism can potentially contribute to fatigue, this symptom is more common among those with hypothyroidism, particularly for those with Hashimoto’s disease. Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disease wherein the immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid gland, resulting in reduced thyroid function [1].

Your thyroid hormones are involved with metabolism, which is how you get energy for the day. Without enough hormones, your metabolism slows down, causing weight gain, which means less energy throughout the day. Less energy equates to more intense fatigue. This can occur suddenly or can develop over time [2].

Hypothyroidism can also contribute to symptoms that can then lead to fatigue. For example, an underactive thyroid commonly contributes to depression. While depression is typically associated with extreme sadness and a lack of motivation, it can also give way to physical symptoms, like aching muscles and joints, muscle weakness, frequent headaches, and fatigue [2].

With hyperthyroidism, fatigue can present as a product of other symptoms. An overactive thyroid commonly leads to insomnia and general sleep problems. This comes because of the excess thyroid hormone, which can increase your blood pressure and heart rate and cause anxiety. Left untreated, those sleepless nights can easily add up, resulting in fatigue in your waking hours [2].

What is Fatigue?

There is a difference between feeling tired and sleepy and feeling fatigued. Fatigue is like feeling tired with the dial cranked all the way up to 100. That overtired feeling can have a huge negative impact on your everyday life. You may have trouble getting up in the morning, going to work, performing your usual tasks, and simply getting through the day [3].

This can be noted by an intense sleepiness that doesn’t go away even after going to sleep and sometimes goes even beyond that. Your muscles can feel weak, and your limbs might feel unnaturally heavy. Basic movement can feel sluggish, and you may feel physically uncomfortable more easily. You may have no energy to exercise regularly, and doing something as simple as climbing stairs can feel like an impossible task [3].

That fatigue can eventually catch up to your mental health and basic cognitive processes. Fatigue may keep you from concentrating or focusing on tasks. You may have memory problems, both in the short and long term. You may lack motivation to do anything, even the activities you like. You may also feel nervous, irritable, or anxious [3].

Dealing with Thyroid Fatigue

Medication

The best way to manage your thyroid fatigue is to get a proper diagnosis and receive treatment for the thyroid disorder. This may involve a form of prescribed medication. For many people, even with thyroid medication, fatigue can persist, but it’s important to keep up with your prescription. Take your medication consistently as directed. If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you remember. Wait at least four hours to take your medication after taking iron, calcium, or cholesterol-lowering supplements. These can interfere with the absorption of the medication for the thyroid condition [4].

Diet

Those feeling the effects of fatigue will typically reach for sugar and caffeine to give them an extra energy boost. Although sugar can give you a slight boost, that energy is temporary and usually followed by a crash that can make you feel even worse than before. Caffeine is generally okay when taken in moderation, but too much caffeine can interfere with sleep, which can make you feel more tired [4].

While there is no singular diet that will increase your energy levels, it’s always a good idea to maintain a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruit and vegetables, lean sources of protein, and whole grains in lieu of sugary snacks [4].

Exercise

Exercise can seem impossible and counterintuitive. After all, why would you tire yourself out even more? However, a regular exercise routine can help manage your mood, energy levels, stress, and blood sugar. You don’t need too vigorous of activity. Yoga, cycling, and walking can all help you relax while remaining active [4].

Sleep Routine

Maintaining a sleep routine sets the foundation for good quality sleep every night. Keep a bedtime routine that introduces a low-level activity that gets your mind relaxed and ready for bed. This can include taking a bath, meditating, or reading a book. Things like exercising, playing games, or watching TV can over-excite your brain, even after you close your eyes [3].

As you’ve probably heard before: avoid electronics before bed. Anything with a screen should be put away at least an hour before bedtime. Move your phone away from your bed to prevent the temptation of checking it.

Literally, hundreds of conditions and diseases aside from thyroid problems cause fatigue. The only way to know your health status is to get tested, like with the Everlywell at-home thyroid test, or get an official diagnosis from your healthcare provider. This can provide peace of mind and help you start your journey to better health.

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References

1. Thyroid gland. You and Your Hormones. URL. Accessed January 7, 2022.

2. The Connection Between Fatigue and Thyroid Disease. Verywell Health. URL. Accessed January 7, 2022.

3. Fatigue. Cleveland Clinic. URL. Accessed January 7, 2022.

4. Coping with fatigue. British Thyroid Foundation. URL. Accessed January 7, 2022.

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