Over time, you might discover that you’re experiencing mild yet concerning symptoms like fatigue, brain fog or weight gain. You don’t know what the problem is—the only thing you know for sure is that something’s not right.
It’s not all in your head. These early symptoms might indicate you’re developing a health problem. Whether you feel crummy or not, regular checkups with a doctor can reveal the telltale signs of subclinical thyroid issues.
Let’s delve into what subclinical thyroid issues are, possible symptoms and how to prevent the thyroid gland from getting worse.
What are subclinical thyroid issues?
A subclinical condition is one that could potentially worsen into a diagnosable illness. These conditions often fly under the radar, even when doctors run lab tests to identify the problem. Subclinical thyroid issues are hard to detect because they produce few to no symptoms at all. Your doctor may or may not prescribe treatment until the subclinical condition develops into a full-blown thyroid problem.
The most common indicator of a subclinical thyroid issue is when thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) levels are slightly above or below the normal range. The pituitary gland produces TSH, and the hormone regulates how frequently the thyroid gland produces thyroid hormones. Despite the small change in TSH, the thyroid usually produces hormones at a normal rate.
Symptoms of subclinical thyroid issues
Most people with a subclinical thyroid issue will show zero symptoms. At this stage, it’s too early for doctors to diagnose a patient with a full-blown thyroid problem. However, some people may experience very mild symptoms when fluctuating TSH levels start to affect thyroid hormone production.
Higher TSH levels are a precursor to an underactive thyroid. Here are some possible symptoms:
- Depressed mood
- Swelling of the neck
- Weight gain
- Cold intolerance
On the other hand, lower TSH levels are associated with a potentially overactive thyroid. Consult your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Heat intolerance
- Weight loss
- Nervousness or irritability
- Uncontrollable shaking
Check in with your doctor
Consulting a physician is the most reliable way to determine whether you have a subclinical thyroid issue. This is especially true if you exhibit zero symptoms of an underactive or overactive thyroid. Detection of subclinical thyroid issues often begins at a molecular level.
Doctors can detect subclinical thyroid issues by running a series of lab tests. They will take blood samples to test for TSH along with the thyroid hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). If you have a subclinical thyroid issue, your T3 and T4 levels might be normal, while TSH levels will be slightly above or below the average range.
Abnormal TSH levels don’t automatically mean you have a subclinical thyroid issue, though. Hormone levels are constantly fluctuating in the body, and future tests may show your TSH levels are completely normal. Your doctor will have to take recurring blood samples over several months to confirm that you’re developing a thyroid issue.
How to treat thyroid issues at home
Most doctors won’t treat subclinical thyroid issues with medication, especially if you don’t have any symptoms. Thankfully, it’s possible to slow or completely reverse the progression of subclinical thyroid issues by practicing a well-balanced diet. Promote normal thyroid functioning with these tips:
- Iodine: The thyroid hormone depends on iodine in order to produce healthy levels of T3 and T4. It’s important to stay within the recommended dose of iodine, because eating too much can make thyroid issues worse. Half a teaspoon of iodized salt spread over several meals will give you a day’s worth of iodine.
- Selenium: Another important trace mineral is selenium. People with heightened T4 levels should incorporate more selenium into their diet because it helps regulate this particular hormone. Good sources of selenium are tuna, turkey, cottage cheese and brown rice.
- B vitamins: Abnormal thyroid hormone levels can zap your vitamin B-12 reserves. The lack of vitamin B-12 is what causes fatigue and brain fog in patients with an underactive thyroid. You can get more B vitamins in your diet by eating beans, sesame seeds, asparagus, tuna and dairy products.
- Sugar-free foods: People with subclinical thyroid issues are better off eliminating sugar from their diet whenever possible. Excessive amounts of sugar cause inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation slows down processes within the thyroid gland like converting T4 to T3. Avoid highly processed, sugary desserts and, instead, go for natural sources of sugar like fruit.
Subclinical thyroid issues don’t always develop into something worse. With the right diet and regular checkups, you can return your thyroid function back to normal. Following these steps shows that you’re taking charge of your health and addressing the problem head on. Early detection of thyroid problems is crucial to protect not only your thyroid gland but every system in your body.