Thyroid Imbalance And Skin

Our thyroid gland secretes hormones that affect our entire physiology and psychology.

In the field of mathematics and modelling, there is a concept called ‘The Butterfly Effect’ where a small localized change can have a very large profound effect elsewhere. Much in the same manner there is a small butterfly-shaped gland situated in the base of our neck, called the thyroid gland which may be small but can have a profound effect on our health.

So what exactly does our thyroid gland do?

Our Thyroid gland secretes hormones that affect our entire physiology and psychology. Some examples of systems and bodily processes affected by the variation in the hormones released by the thyroid are:

- Our Cardiovascular system

- Our Digestion and Metabolism

- Our Neurological Functions

- Our Bone Growth

- Our Menstrual Function

You’ll be amazed when you realise just how many difficulties can arise with a thyroid imbalance, right from severe mood variations to serious weight changes to changes in heart rate and more.

So how is the Thyroid related to your skin?

Albeit your thyroid gland sits deep in your neck, your dermatologist would probably be one of the first doctors to notice signs that are related to a thyroid disorder. That’s because many early signs and symptoms of thyroid disorder develop and are visible on our skin, hair and nails.

Hypo v/s Hyper Thyroidism

A condition of an underactive thyroid, medically known as hypothyroidism occurs when the gland doesn’t secrete enough thyroid hormone to regulate metabolism, causing various bodily functions to become sluggish. As against this with an overactive thyroid gland, your metabolism speeds up and can cause a different set of complications.

Skin, Hair and Nail changes which indicate hypothyroidism

- Excessive dryness of skin leading to cracks and scaly skin and itching

- Decreased sweating

- Yellowish colour of palms and soles

- Delayed healing of wounds

- Easy bruising

In very severe cases of hypothyroidism, one can even experience symptoms like Baggy swollen face, puffy eyelids, swollen lips etc.

As for the hair, the scalp and body hair can become dry, coarse and brittle leading to easy breakage and hair loss. Also, the Nails can become brittle and slow to grow. One may also observe pits and lines on the nails

Skin, Hair and Nail changes which indicate hyperthyroidism

- A person can experience a warm and moist skin

- Increased sweating (mainly on the chest and inner side of the arm)

- Flushing (increased redness) of palms

- Increased pigmentation (darkening of the skin) on sun-exposed areas and palms.

- Orange skin like appearance mainly on shins with thickening and hardening of the skin

One can experience excessive hair loss during hyperthyroidism. The nails can also indicate hyperthyroidism as they can become soft yet brittle or have a curved growth. One can also experience swollen fingertips with thickened skin above the nails.

Other skin and hair associations of thyroid disorders

Thyroid Disorders also tend to either flare up existing skin and hair conditions or bring to front such conditions. Some conditions with a very strong association with thyroid disorders are:

- Vitiligo

- Psoriasis

- Alopecia Areata (small areas of bald patches on the scalp, beard)

- Long-standing hives etc.

What can I do if I witness any of these changes?

While thyroid disorders tend to be chronic in nature, with the advances in medical science it is now possible to very well regulate the levels of the thyroid hormones and lead a long, healthy and full life. Having said this one should be willing to make healthy changes to their lifestyle and stick to the regimen of medications advised.

Most of the above-mentioned signs are reversible post-correction of thyroid imbalance and some of them may need external intervention by a dermatologist, but are correctable nonetheless.

The most important piece of advice I would like to leave you with is that if you are experiencing any changes in your skin, hair or nails, please do not ignore them same. These changes can be an indicator of something more intrinsic and the sooner such issues are discussed with your doctor the better the outcome.

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