Hypothyroidism symptoms may include changes in the voice

Dr Renee talks about symptoms of hypothyroidism

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In hypothyroidism, the butterfly-shaped gland that sits at the front of the neck does produce enough thyroid hormones. This causes slowing of the metabolism, which is characterised by tiredness, brain fog and weight gain. If low levels are left uncorrected for too long, changes may also occur in a person’s voice.

Voice characteristics in patients with hypothyroidism were explored in one study published in the Eurasian Journal of Medicine in 2019.

The researchers found that hypothyroidism can cause notably notable voice changes, such as low voice, roughness, reduced range and vocal fatigue.

Dysphonia, on the other hand, can be caused by excessive thyroid hormone production or hyperthyroidism, found the researchers.

Doctor Reena Gupta, director of the Division of Voice and Laryngology at the Osborne Head and Neck Institute, broke down some of the reasons the body experiences these changes.

The expert explained: “The thyroid gland serves an extremely important role in the body.

“Thyroid hormones are responsible for the body’s homeostasis, the body’s basic functioning, including the metabolic rate, heart and digestive function and muscle control.

“As such, disorders of hormone production can affect all the systems in the body. The thyroid can also compress or invade nearby structures when it enlarges or has growths within it”.

If thyroid issues are the cause of vocal changes, the onset of a hoarse voice is likely to be slow and gradual.

According to the website Thyroid Symptoms, this often leaves sufferers with a vocal quality that is often described as “shaky”.

“When thyroid hormone levels are extremely low and uncorrected, the vocal folds may develop a thickening of the vibrating layer,” adds doctor Gupta.

“This is called myxoedema and can occur in other areas of the body as well. Myxoedema is a gelatinous thickening of the vocal folds, which causes a harsh, ‘smoker’s voice'”.

Who’s at risk of hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism can be caused by Hashimoto’s disease, which occurs when the body’s immune system comes under attack.

People who are older than 60 or who have a family history of thyroid disease, are also at an increased risk of hypothyroidism.

Unfortunately, apart from avoiding modifiable risk factors, there is no way to avert the condition.

People who may have a higher risk of thyroid issues would benefit from regular checkups by their doctor, in case they need additional iodine.

Spotting the symptoms of an under-active thyroid early will also lower the impact the condition has on a person’s life.

Besides voice changes, other symptoms to expect are:

  • A puffy face
  • Sensitivity to col
  • Constipation
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Memory decline.

Standard treatment for hypothyroidism, in the form of synthetic thyroid hormone levothyroxine, can help ease these symptoms.

The drug is best absorbed on an empty stomach at the same time every day, ideally an hour before eating or taking other medications.

Loading up on rich vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats may also help improve energy levels and help patients achieve a healthy weight.

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