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5 Early Warning Signs of Thyroid Problems

While thyroid issues are relatively common in the UK, the symptoms can often get confused or conflated with other health conditions.

In this article, we are going to talk through the early warning signs of thyroid problems to help you better understand this condition and whether you need to speak to your GP.

Read on to find out how to tell if you have an underactive or overactive thyroid, as well as the next steps you should take, if you’re experiencing these thyroid issue symptoms.

What is the thyroid gland?

To understand and recognised the early warning signs of thyroid problems, we should first go over a few fundamentals of your thyroid.

For starters, the thyroid is a small gland, located in the front of the neck, just below the Adam’s apple, that plays a big role in body function. Namely, it produces thyroid hormones, which help convert food into energy and influence growth, development, and temperature regulation.

So, when you experience a thyroid imbalance – whether your thyroid gland is producing too many or too few hormones – it can lead to health problems. Thyroid issues can include:

  • Hypothyroidism: Your thyroid gland does not produce enough hormones, slowing your body’s metabolism.

  • Hyperthyroidism: Your body is producing too many thyroid hormones, which accelerates your body’s metabolism.

  • Thyroid nodules: These are non-cancerous growths that can develop on the thyroid gland.

  • Thyroid cancer: A type of cancer that causes swelling, hoarseness, and difficulty swallowing.

What are the early warning signs of thyroid problems?

1. Fatigue

While we all probably wish we could sneak a couple more hours of sleep every night, fatigue or exhaustion caused by thyroid issues cannot be cured by getting a solid eight hours.

You’ll feel tired all the time, no matter how long you stay in bed, and may also experience joint and muscle pain. This is because your thyroid gland is not producing enough hormones, so your body struggles to convert food to energy.

To separate an imbalance with your thyroid and sleep issues caused by something else, make sure you give yourself the best chance possible of a good night’s sleep. For example, you can eat the right foods for sleep or establish a relaxing routine that sees you through until morning.

2. Weight fluctuations

Whether you’re gaining or losing weight, if you experience weight fluctuations without making any related lifestyle change, it could be a sign of thyroid issues.

With an underactive thyroid, your body is struggling to convert food into energy, so it stays in your body, either being converted to fat or being retained as water or salt. The result is weight gain, although it might be too subtle for you to notice at first.

An overactive thyroid, on the other hand, means your body is producing too many hormones, with too much food being converted into energy. If you don’t up your calorie intake accordingly, then it can lead to weight loss.

3. High blood pressure

High blood pressure is another early warning sign of thyroid problems – for both underactive and overactive thyroid glands. This can either be caused by an increased resistance in blood vessels or having a higher volume of salt and water in the body.

Of course, high blood pressure could also be caused by many other factors too. We recommend eating a heart healthy diet, exercising more, and managing your stress before attributing any high blood pressure numbers to thyroid issues.

4. Sensitivity to cold temperatures

Constantly feel cold even when wrapped in layers or relaxing in a well-heated room? It could be a symptom of thyroid problems.

If your thyroid gland is not producing enough hormones, you won’t get as much energy from food. This can lead to your body not producing enough energy to fuel your metabolism and regulate your temperature.

So, if you’re always feeling the chill or are hyper sensitive to temperature changes, then it could be an early warning sign of thyroid problems.

5. Swelling in your neck

Visible swelling is one of the more obvious signs of thyroid issues – and perhaps the reason why you started searching for early warning signs of thyroid problems in the first place!

Otherwise known as goitre, these lumps or general swelling is caused by your thyroid getting bigger, typically due to overactivity. Don’t worry, there’s no need to panic, goitres are not usually serious – but we do recommend checking in with your GP, just to be safe.

What other thyroid issue symptoms should you watch out for?

With both underactive and overactive thyroids, there are early warning signs, but they develop slowly and can be easy to miss. To give a more well-rounded view of your potential condition, and understand whether you need further medical attention, we have also provided general signs of thyroid issues, below, broken down by the differences between and underactive and overactive thyroid.

Thyroid issue symptoms: underactive vs overactive thyroid

Underactive thyroid

Overactive thyroid

Sensitivity to cold

Sensitivity to heat

Slow movements and thoughts


Weight gain

Weight loss

Loss of libido

Loss of libido


Anxiety and nervousness





What should I do if I’m experiencing the early warning signs of thyroid problems?

Should you be experiencing any of these thyroid issue symptoms, we’d always recommend booking an appointment with your GP to discuss the potential warning signs.

If you’re a member of Benenden Health, you can take advantage of preferential pricing across our range of health assessments. This private health check can identify any early warning signs of thyroid problems before they start impacting your body, as well as any other potential health concerns.

To find out more about what's included in our healthcare services, head over to our healthcare pageYou can also take a look at our Be Healthy hub or sign up to our regular e-newsletter for a treasure trove of information and advice on how to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Medically reviewed by Llinos Connolly on June 2023.