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Itchy Skin and Thyroid Problems: Are They Related?

About 20 million Americans are affected by a thyroid disease, according to the American Thyroid Association. Thyroid problems can be caused by either an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism) or an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism). Dry, itchy skin - also known as pruritus - is a common symptom of these issues. It is important to be aware of the other common symptoms of thyroid problems so that you can tell your doctor if you are experiencing them. Fortunately, there are several actions to take in order to treat thyroid problems.

Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), can cause itchy skin.

Thyroid Problems

Thyroid function is closely related to metabolism. The thyroid gland also helps to maintain blood pressure, regulate tissue growth, and encourage the development of the skeletal, nervous, and reproductive systems.

Thyroid problems can develop over time, and occur within the gland. Often, they are not apparent until a broad pattern of hormone imbalance develops. This is why thyroid problems tend to show up during times when hormones are in flux - especially during menopause and menstruation in women.

Thyroid problems can affect the sweat and oil producing glands, thus drying out skin. An underactive thyroid causes the body's metabolic rate to decrease. This abnormally slow metabolic rate can also affect the skin's ability to grow and repair itself as it should, causing itchy skin. In the case of hyperthyroidism, increased blood flow to the skin can result in itchiness.

Common symptoms of thyroid problems include:

  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Weight gain
  • Fatigue
  • Thinning hair rate
  • Constipation
  • Depression

If you are experiencing several of these symptoms together, you may have a thyroid problem. In these cases, it is good to seek the advice a healthcare professional.

Treatment Option

If you think you are suffering from a thyroid problem, you should see a doctor, as he or she can prescribe proper treatment relative to your condition. Standard treatment for hypothyroidism involves taking an oral medication of a synthetic thyroid hormone (levothyroxin) to restore balance. Likewise, there are several lifestyle changes that you can try before starting any treatment.

Active lifestyle

Maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle can help restore hormone levels and boost energy. Exercising for 30 minutes at least five times a week can be beneficial for reducing stress, improving mood, deepening sleep, and increasing energy levels.

Eating a healthy and balanced diet

Proper nutrition is also important to prevent weight gain - which is a common symptom of hypothyroidism - and to promote skin health. Try to include plenty of protein, complex carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables, and essential fatty acids into your diet.

In some cases, thyroid problems and itchy skin are directly related. Itchy skin is one of the more common symptoms of hypothyroidism because the thyroid gland is linked to skin growth. It is important to seek medical treatment if you think you are suffering from a thyroid problem, as symptoms can often worsen if left untreated.

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Sources:
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. (2012). Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). Retrieved November 25, 2014, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hypothyroidism/basics/symptoms/con-20021179
  • Yonova, D. (2007). Pruritus in certain internal diseases. Hippokratia, 11(2), 67-71. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2464269/