Updated 27 August 2018

Symptoms of hypothyroidism

The onset of symptoms of hypothyroidism in adults may be so gradual that it is ascribed to the normal ageing process. Here is a list of possible symptoms.

The symptoms of hypothyroidism are related to the speed of development and the severity of the condition. People with mild hypothyroidism usually have no symptoms.

Symptoms in adults

The onset of symptoms in adults may be so gradual that it is ascribed to the normal ageing process. These symptoms affect almost all body systems:

  • Physical changes, such as thickened facial features
  • Thick, dry skin, yellowish skin colour
  • Inability to tolerate cold temperatures
  • Husky voice
  • Dry, coarse hair, loss of hair from outer third of eyebrows, loss of hair from scalp
  • Premature greying of hair in young adults
  • Brittle nails
  • Swelling of arms, legs and feet and facial puffiness, particularly around the eyes
  • Numb and tingling hands
  • Swelling in the throat (goitre), caused by an enlarged thyroid
  • Sluggishness or drowsiness
  • Fatigue, sleepiness and weakness
  • Decreased body temperature
  • Depression
  • Memory problems, diminished concentration
  • Hearing problems
  • Slow speech
  • Heart (cardiovascular) changes
  • Increased cholesterol level
  • Slowed heart rate
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Modest weight gain (three to four kilograms)
  • Constipation
  • Weakness
  • Muscle aches and cramps 
  • Heavy or irregular menstrual periods
  • Infertility

Symptoms in infants

Severe hypothyroidism in infants causes slow growth and slow mental development. If left untreated, it results in cretinism. The age at which symptoms become apparent and their severity depend on how poorly the baby’s thyroid functions. Symptoms include the following:

  • Poor appetite and choking while nursing
  • Failure to gain weight and slow growth
  • Constipation
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Hoarse cry
  • Sluggishness
  • Enlarged abdomen
  • Cold and mottled skin
  • Swollen genitals, hands and feet

Read more: 


Causes of hypothyroidism 

Treating hypothyroidism

Reviewed by Dr Wayne May, Endocrinologist Kingsbury Hospital, Cape Town February 2015.

Previously reviewed by Dr P.H.S. van Zijl, MB.Ch B. MMed (Int).