Hypothyroidism Skin Changes

The thyroid plays a vital role in keeping your skin normal.  For someone suffering from hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism skin changes are common.  These conditions of the thyroid gland can have several abnormal reactions on your skin.

Hypothyroidism is a condition where your thyroid gland under produces ie it fails to produce the optimal amount of thyroid hormone. The right level of thyroid hormone is crucial to keep many bodily functions humming along in sync.  When they’re not, things get out of sync resulting in health problems.

Hypothyroidism Skin Changes To Watch Out For

Dry Cracking Skin

Under the condition of hypothyroidism skin goes under several changes.  The most common is that it makes the skin exceptionally dry.  This is more obvious if previously your skin was very oily or mildly oily.  In hypothyroidism skin dries out, causing it to become scaly and coarse.  You may find that your skin will also crack, flake or age easily.

This cracking allows harmful organisms like bacteria to penetrate the skin’s tissues, setting up inflammation and even infections.  Doctors recommend using a mild soap  sparingly and a mild moisturizer regularly.  It’s also advisable to keep water temperatures down when bathing or washing.

Reduction In Sweating

In some cases your drying skin will have been caused by a reduction in sweating, which in turn happens as your metabolism slows down.  Sweat is an important natural moisturizer and cooling mechanism.  Without enough sweat your skin dries out and you also have an increased risk of overheating.

Swelling

When suffering from hypothyroidism skin also tends to swell up especially in the feet, hands and parts of the face (like eyelids).  This is because, due to lack of sweating,  excess water is retained under your skin causing puffiness.  You can help reduce this by doing regular physical exercise to stimulate the body to sweat and shed excess water.

Interesting Questions about Thyroid:

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism?

Signs and symptoms of Hyperthyroidism may include:

  • fast heart rate (100-120 beats per minute or higher)
  • slightly elevated blood pressure
  • nervousness or irritability
  • increased perspiration
  • muscle weakness (especially in the shoulders, hips, and thighs)
  • trembling hands
  • weight loss, in spite of a good appetite
  • hair loss
  • fingernails partially separated from finger-tips (onycholysis)
  • swollen fingertips (achropachy or clubbing)
  • retracted (pulled back) upper eyelids
  • skin changes
  • increased frequency of bowel movements
  • goiter (an abnormal swelling in the neck caused by an enlarged thyroid gland)
  • in women, decreased menstrual flow and less frequent menstrual flow
  • in men, slight swelling of the breasts
  • in Graves’ disease: thick or swollen skin over the shin bones (pretibial myxedema); eyes that seem to be popping out of their socket (exophthalmos).

Most of these conditions will return to normal after the hyperthyroidism is treated. Certain others may be treated separately.

What About Nodules?

What are hot and cold nodules?

Thyroid nodules do not function like normal thyroid tissue. A thyroid image (scan) done with a radioactive chemical shows the size, shape, and function of the gland and of thyroid nodules. A nodule that takes up more of the radioactive material than the rest of the gland is called a hot nodule.

A nodule that takes up less radioactive material is a cold nodule. Hot nodules are seldom cancerous, but less than 10% of all nodules are hot. Cold nodules may or may not be cancerous. All lumps should be checked by your doctor.

How do doctors test nodules for cancer?

Your doctor can use several tests to find out whether or not a thyroid lump is cancerous.

  • A thyroid image or scan shows the size, shape, and function of the gland. It uses a tiny amount of a radioactive chemical, usually iodine or technetium, which the thyroid absorbs from the blood. A special camera then creates a picture, showing how much iodine was absorbed by each part of the gland.
  • In needle aspiration biopsy, a small needle is inserted into the nodule in an effort to suck out (aspirate) cells. If the nodule is a fluid-filled cyst, the aspiration often removes some or all of the fluid. If the nodule is solid, several small samples are removed for examination under the microscope. In over 90% of all cases, this testing tells the doctor whether the lump is benign or malignant.
  • Ultrasound uses high-pitch sound waves to find out whether a nodule is solid or filled with fluid. About 10% of lumps are fluid-filled cysts, and they are usually not cancerous. Ultrasound may also detect other nodules that are not easily felt by the doctor. The presence of multiple nodules reduces the likelihood of cancer.

How are nodules treated?

Nodules that are thought to be benign are usually observed at regular intervals. Some patients may be advised to take thyroid hormone pills. In certain instances, the nodule may be surgically removed because of continuing growth, pressure symptoms in the neck, or for cosmetic reasons.

Fluid-filled cysts that come back after several aspirations may need to be removed.

If the testing shows a nodule that is, or might be, malignant (cancerous), your doctor will recommend surgery. (You should discuss special situations, such as pregnancy, with your doctor.) The goal of surgery is to remove as much of the cancerous tissue as possible. If the cancer is found in the early stages when it is still confined to the thyroid gland, the surgery is almost always successful. With papillary cancer, patients usually do well after treatment, even if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes in the neck.

The surgeon starts by removing one lobe of the thyroid. This specimen is tested during surgery (frozen section) to tell the surgeon whether it is benign or malignant. If it is malignant, most or all of the thyroid is removed. If the cancer has spread, lymph nodes in the neck may also have to be removed. In addition, in patients with either papillary or follicular cancer, radioactive iodine therapy may be needed six weeks after surgery to destroy any remaining cancerous tissue.

What happens after surgery?

After surgery, patients must stay in the hospital for one to three days. They may also need to take some time off from work (one to two weeks for a desk job; three to four weeks for physical labor). Most patients do not have any trouble speaking or swallowing, and they report minimal pain after the surgery. In patients with thyroid cancer, a scan may be done approximately six weeks after surgery to detect any residual thyroid tissue that needs to be treated with radioactive iodine.

Patients with thyroid cancer will need to take thyroid hormone their entire lives. Some patients who have had a noncancerous nodule removed will also be advised to take thyroid hormone pills. These may prevent new nodules from forming in the remaining portion of the thyroid gland.

What are the signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism?

Possible effects of hypothyroidism are:

  • slow heart rate (less than 70 beats per minute)
  • elevated blood pressure
  • feeling slow or tired
  • feeling cold
  • drowsy during the day, even after sleeping all night
  • poor memory
  • difficulty concentrating
  • muscle cramps, numb arms and legs
  • weight gain
  • puffy face, especially under the eyes
  • husky voice
  • thinning hair
  • dry, coarse, flaky, yellowish skin
  • in children, short height
  • constipation
  • heavy menstrual flow
  • milky discharge from the breasts
  • infertility
  • goiter (an abnormal swelling in the neck caused by an enlarged thyroid gland).

Have more questions? Need more answers? Check our Full Thyroid FAQ

Carotenaemia Or Yellow Skin

When affected by hypothyroidism skin may also change color and get a yellow tint.  This is caused by a condition called carotenaemia.  Normally carotene is converted to vitamin A but in hypothyroidism sufferers this conversion is impaired allowing the carotene, which is the yellow pigment in vegetables like carrots, pumpkin and sweet potato, to build up.  Carotenaemia can also be caused by excessive consumption of these yellow pigmented foods.

Hair Loss

Your hair follicles may tighten up under hypothyroidism and thus cause hair fall on the  scalp and eyebrows. To ease the follicles try massaging daily on regular basis.  This will aid in loosening the follicles by improving your blood circulation through the skin.

Skin Discoloration

Skin discoloration is also a symptom of hypothyroidism. In hypothyroidism skin may develop an uneven texture and become blotchy.  You may also have unexplained bruises. To reduce discoloration, regularly use a mild exfoliating agent.  Remember not to use anything too harsh on your skin as it will make it worse.

Thickened Skin Texture

Hypothyroidism can also cause the skin to become thick thus coarse, which may cause discomfort to some patients. It is usually apparent on the legs, feet, arms, hands etc. It will also cause your nails to thicken and become brittle. Regular massages with oil can help alleviate the discomfort and put moisture back into your skin and nails.

Weakens The Immune System

Hypothyroidism is known to make your immune system weak too.  This slows down the  skin’s natural healing process so injuries tend to heal slowly and poorly.

These effects of hypothyroidism can be severe on the skin if not treated properly. If these signs appear on your skin you might have an under active thyroid which needs to be treated as soon as possible.  You should go see a physician before applying and trying home remedies, which can have adverse reactions if it is indeed a condition of hypothyroidism.

Donna Morgan

Donna Morgan

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