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What is the Connection Between the Thyroid and Fatigue?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 16 September 2016
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The relationship between thyroid and fatigue is at times straightforward, and at other times more complex. Anyone with hypothyroidism or even low normal readings of the various thyroid hormones is likely to suffer from fatigue because the body’s metabolism is not working properly. This is one of the main symptoms of hypothyroidism, and it leads to other symptoms like low body temperature, depression, exhaustion, and difficulty losing weight. Paradoxically, hyperthyroidism (too much of the thyroid hormones) is sometimes also linked to fatigue because it can dramatically affect sleep levels, producing a growing lack of energy as the day progresses.

In the healthy person, the thyroid gland responds to requests from the pituitary gland to create thyroid hormones which steadily work to convert chemicals in the body to energy the body can use. If anything occurs to disrupt the production of these hormones, this automatically translates to lower available energy. Depending on how much energy levels are reduced, people might feel anything from mildly tired to chronically exhausted. Most complain of sluggishness because they must force themselves to get through each day and they never feel well rested. Essentially, thyroid and fatigue are connected in one way, because of the absence of thyroid hormones almost always directly creates fatigue.

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There are different ways hypothyroidism occurs. It can be congenital, or it may be the result of autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis that causes the immune system to view thyroid hormones as foreign and attack them. Some people simply have low thyroid levels, a problem that can sometimes worsen as people age, and it appears to be more common in women. Since thyroid and fatigue are related, symptoms like fatigue, trouble losing weight, depression, and sensitivity to cold should be checked with a doctor. Many times, supplementation with thyroid hormones can restore normal energy levels.

Thyroid and fatigue may also be related when people have hyperthyroidism. This can lead to insomnia or expense of too much energy, which make people very tired as the day progresses. Having too much of the thyroid hormones is as bad as having too little, and this condition may be treated with medicines, with radiation of thyroid tissues or with removal of the thyroid gland. With the last two methods, the body won’t have enough thyroid hormone and people will need to take medication in order to replace it, or they become hypothyroid and will remain fatigued.

The interrelationship of the body’s systems means that other diseases and conditions can affect the thyroid gland. These could lead to troubles with the thyroid and fatigue, even if the principle condition was not initially hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. Clearly, anything that affects the gland’s ability to create energy for the body may affect a person’s energy. Continued fatigue is always a symptom worth reporting to doctors, as thyroid hormone levels can be evaluated with a few simple blood tests.

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