We all get tired every once in a while. But sometimes that run-down feeling has nothing to do with a lack of sleep.
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If you’re experiencing prolonged fatigue, it could be due to a problem with your thyroid, the butterfly-shaped gland in the lower front part of the neck. The thyroid makes and releases hormones that help regulate your body temperature and control your heart rate and metabolism — the process that turns the food you eat into energy.
If you having problems with your thyroid function, keeping your energy output is difficult. You may feel you don’t seem to have the energy to do the things you used to be able to do.
An autoimmune attack
Thyroid problems are most common in middle-aged women and typically an autoimmune attack causes them. The immune system mistakes the thyroid as an outside invader, and attacks and damages the gland.
When this occurs, your thyroid may stop producing enough hormones. The result is hypothyroidism. In addition to fatigue, symptoms of hypothyroidism can include weight gain and hair loss.
Hyperthyroidism is when your thyroid is overactive, producing and releasing more hormones than your body needs. Hyperthyroidism also may cause heart palpitations or nervousness in addition to fatigue.
Like wearing a ‘lead vest’
Both conditions can affect your body and the way it functions, resulting in fatigue that is undiminished by sleep, says endocrinologist Betul Hatipoglu, MD.
You may feel you have no energy and are unable to do your daily activities.
“A lot of patients will tell me they feel like they’re wearing this heavy, leaded vest that makes them feel as though they can barely walk around,” Dr. Hatipoglu says. “They feel drained.”
Mistaken for menopause
Millions of women have menopausal-like symptoms for which they can’t seem to find relief. These women may have undiagnosed thyroid disease, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) says.
“Some women say they cannot do cleaning or cooking in their home. They cannot take care of their children, so it can be a really big problem,” Dr. Hatipoglu says.
When to see the doctor
If you experience fatigue that lasts for more than a week and the lack of energy starts to interfere with your daily activities, see your doctor, Dr. Hatipoglu says. A blood test can help identify thyroid problems.
If you do have a thyroid problem, your doctor may prescribe medication to balance your hormones, Dr. Hatipoglu says.
Your doctor also may give you advice to help you if you’re experiencing other conditions that can accompany thyroid problems, such as sleep disorders, food sensitivities, or imbalances in your iron levels.
Many patients report that their fatigue is lessened or even fully resolved with treatment.