As she approached 30, Leslie S. began to notice small shifts in her health that all of a sudden seemed to be racking up.
She was in the middle of an important career change, including a cross-country move to work in the tech industry. Though she was excited about the new job, it required a lot more time sitting at a desk. So when she simultaneously began to gain weight, experience depression, and feel inescapably tired, she assumed it must be a result of her busy life. “I’m not working out as much as I used to and I’m sitting at a desk all day, so this must be normal, right?” she remembers thinking.
When her doctor suggested she look at her diet and exercise, hardworking Leslie took the advice to heart. “I went to the gym and joined a meal replacement program where I survived on prepackaged food of up to 1,200 calories per day. Then I started to feel worse. When I looked in the mirror and saw deep, dark circles under my eyes, I knew something was wrong.”
What her doctor had missed were the early signs of a possible thyroid dysfunction. When a new physician finally recommended she test her thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels, Leslie discovered that she had an underactive thyroid gland, or hypothyroidism.
“I suffered for a long time, but doctors just kept telling me to lose weight. Getting the diagnosis was a huge relief and confirmation that this wasn’t my fault.”
Leslie is not alone. In the U.S., thyroid dysfunctions are among the most commonly underdiagnosed hormonal disorders. Of the 20 million Americans affected — most of whom are women — up to 60% are unaware of their condition according to the American Thyroid Association. Varied symptoms with seemingly baffling origins make getting support particularly tricky. But, when you know what to look out for, thyroid disorders can be easily caught and managed.
The Tiny Thyroid Has a Big Influence on Health
Small but mighty, this butterfly-shaped gland interacts with nearly every organ system in the body. Your metabolism, heart rate, reproductive system, energy levels, and memory are just some of the things that can suffer if your thyroid hormone production starts to get out of balance.