Can hypothyroidism cause memory problems and concentration issues?

I have had an underactive thyoid for at least 2 years, not as yet been treated with any medication. Went to my Doctors and he has referred me to a psychiatrist to check for depression or dementia (I am 45). I mentioned is there any connection with hypothyroidism but he did not seem to think there was any link. I also suffered an early menopause at 39, think my hormonal system is up the creek. Has anyone any advice ... I am so afraid of being diagnosed with dementia. Am finding it so difficult to concentrate, am forgetting things etc. Any advice hugely appreciated.

16 Replies

I am not surprised you have memory and concentration problems . You state you have hypothyroidism but are not yet on medication. No wonder your memory etc is up the creek. These are clinical symptoms of hypothyroidism and some people on medication have the same symptoms as they are not yet on optimum medication.

Your GP is another who has no knowledge of clinical symptoms of hypothyroidism. Why are you not on medication?

Get a copy of your latest thyroid gland blood test results with the ranges and post them for members to comment.

These are some links and this is an excerpt from 1st link:-

Undiagnosed hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism can cause a great strain on the heart. Hypothyroidism can cause coronary atherosclerosis (furring up of the arteries) due to high cholesterol levels. Dr Rowan Hillson tells us in her book, “Thyroid Disorders”, “Lack of T3 and T4 alters fat metabolism… and this can lead to furring of the coronary arteries (coronary atherosclerosis) and reduction of the blood supply to some of the heart muscle. This causes angina… - pain in the chest on exercising, which is usually relieved by rest. Coronary atherosclerosis can cause angina, a heart attack or coronary thrombosis.”

Hyperthyroidism causes the heart to beat faster and increases the risk of stroke as well as atrial fibrillation (fast and irregular heartbeat).

It is therefore very important not to miss a diagnosis of hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.

Thyroid UK suggest a step by step approach:

Thanks for your reply. I started off with an episode of Hyper over two years ago with tsh of 0.03 and T4 or 30.3, this then reversed a couple of months later to tsh of 55.97 and T4 of 5.8, since then my TSH has been dropping slowly and for last year has been between 6.84 and 4, I think I was hoping that it was going to get better by itself as do not like taking medication unless absolutely necessary. My vitamin B12 is also low at 400 which i understand can also impair mental agility. Should I be taking supplements?

my TSH is 'only' 3.3 & my memory is totally up the creek! I have had to pull out of my Open Uni course til I get sorted. I would say medication IS necessary, good luck x

Yes, I was studying at Open University hoping to gain a History Degree, my health and memory were so bad I had to withdraw too.

You can supplement with methylcobalamin B12 to increase. It is said that excess B12 is excreted so there is no overdose but just go slowly. We should aim towards the upper end of the range.

With a bit of luck the psychiatrist will prescribe T3 for you. It is the active hormone hypothyroid people need most of all.

My memory and thinking ability had virtually disappeared last year after several years of increasing problems. I was anaemic, but my ferritin was low 20s so therefore considered to be in range, and was also told I suffered from only subclinical hypothyroidism rather than overt hypothyroidism so no treatment was justified.

After months of begging I got a prescription for iron pills which I soon discovered I could buy without a prescription (and they are cheap), so now I don't beg I just buy my own. I have to pay for my own iron tests, but I consider it to be a good investment.

I also, eventually, got a trial of 25mcg per day of levothyroxine which didn't suit me at all. I've had a few hiccups along the way, but I'm now on T3 only.

I don't think my intellectual ability and memory will ever return to what they were a few years ago but I am a huge amount better than I was and for that I credit the iron and the treatment for my hypothyroidism.

Don't give up hope and learn as much as you can from this site, and do yourself a favour and buy this book :

"Your Thyroid and How to Keep it Healthy: The Great Thyroid Scandal and How to Survive it" by Dr Barry Durrant-Peatfield.

It is very hard to learn anything when your brain has given up on you, but please persevere and just read and re-read until stuff sticks. You CAN get your life back.

P.S. Although it didn't affect me personally, vitamin B12 deficiency can have devastating effects on memory and the brain, so that is another thing to look into.

Poor you, your symptoms could certainly be thyroid. But these symptoms can disappear with the right treatment. My thinking was never properly sharp until on T3, good luck with getting treated

Hi mulberry1209,

Please don't give up. I can only tell you what I went through and hope it might help you.

I am 45 too (nearly 46) and I have pretty much lost over a decade of enjoying life due to ill health which for the main part was undiagnosed by Doctors.

I was told I was depressed, hormonal, pre-menopausal, agitated, difficult, perhaps suffering with hypochondria, the list goes on. I almost gave up so many times I could only force myself to carry on because of my daughters.

Then a new Doctor did a blood test 2 years ago; hey presto I was diagnosed with HYPOTHYROIDISM, it was severe at the time and caused the Doctor some serious concern (!), as far as the GP is concerned my condition is now 'under control', I disagree, but then why should they care (yes I am bitter about it now and with good reason). Over the last year my health declined to the point where I was unable to walk the length of my house outside, could not always manage to get up the stairs, was effectively thinking that I was about to die. I was REALLY scared and refused to give up, I had to be taken to the Doctors because I couldn't walk very far at all, and used the lift there because I couldn't get up the stairs (I am 5' 2" and at the time weighed 11 stone, so not really big and weight wasn't the cause). I went to the Doctors at least three times a week, they were very fed up with me but still I persisted.

Eventually they agreed to send me to see a Cardiologist on the day I refused to leave.

Result: I have ANGINA.

Apparently high cholesterol is a major cause of Angina and high cholesterol can be connected with HYPOTHYROIDISM, one of the tell tales signs for the Cardiology team was the pain I get in my jaw, so that's worth looking out for by the way.

If left untreated for long enough the hypothyroidism and raised cholesterol can cause heart disease and angina. But check this out with your GP, it's just what I have been told about my condition, it might be different for you.

When I wasn't treated I felt like I was about to die, couldn't remember anything at all, oh the list goes on and on, my family even thought I was perhaps early onset Alzheimers, my memory was that bad (apparently it's the low blood oxygen saturation that causes memory problems). Since my treatment for Angina has started and I also use my Glyceryl Trinitrate spray when need too, I feel like life is worth living again. I am in the process of setting up my own craft business from home, can walk longer distances too. I cant get up the stairs yet at the Dr's, but I will only have to see them now once a month.

So, I am sorry this was such a long reply and I hope it helped you. It's always worth following your instinct and not giving up,

Dear Chel68, thanks so much for your reply. It really does help knowing that I am not the only one out there that has had these problems. I am so frightened that it might be some sort of Alzheimers too, I have gone from being a quick thinking, no nonsense kind of person to someone drifting around in a kind of fog, forgetful and not achieving much in my day. I hope you continue to get better and many thanks again for taking the time to reply.

and thank you for your thank you, you are very welcome and I just hope that you find a solution, even if it's just a partial one. Yes, that 'foggy' feeling, it's awful, mine has not fully lifted yet. I still don't always trust the memories that occasionally break through the fog and startle me with a sudden moment of absolute clarity, just before the fog descends again. But the 'clarity' moments are starting to increase, I even remembered a whole verse of a song the other day and then, stranger still, I actually sang it, not in tune, but it was a start.

In short, you are not alone, you are an important part of a group of people who have proven themselves to have the intelligence to seek answers, the bravery to carry on and the dream that things will get better. If we give up then who will help the next generation? Does it always just carry on being bad? No, I for one firmly believe that we deserve our chance to live a full life and we have the right to be treated with dignity and respect. If only I could remember all of those brave words when the thyroid, angina fog descends...x

Good Luck to you mulberry1209, stay strong.

Hope looking at this site helps you too..... there is a video on YouTube of Professor Smith giving a talk at the Pernicious Anaemia Society conference - about B12 and the shrinking brain - he starts talking about 4 minutes into the video. google Professor Smith B12 PAS conference and hopefully something will appear ! Have lost the link at the moment. Learnt from hampster1 - if you look at her posts they are so informative. maybe this is helpful too.....

There are so many links out on the net about Hypothyroidism and Depression - type Depression into the Search Box on the Green Bar and relevant posts will appear....Maybe remind your GP that T3 was used for Depression et al in years gone by and it is still used today and often debated on forums and in many articles. There is a website called Hypothyroid Mom which covers the topic as does Stop the Thyroid Madness website. Dr Peatfield says in his book that everyone with depression should be tested for Hypothyroidism. How can GP's today still get it so wrong.....and why can't they learn about B12.... :-)

Get your B12 levels checked mine were 290 & was told by dr normal.I had memory lapse,ringing in ears,tremors,pins & needles Taking methyl B 12 spray.

I not terrible issues with not being able to remember anything and brain fog-lost my powers of reasoning once on Levo things improved. Have you had your antibodies checked. Just wondering about the big difference in your TSH levels from hyper to hypo. I have just been diagnosed as having antibodies-Hashi's after 7 years of just being hypo.

Thanks to everyone for their advice. Went to see the referred psychiatrist on Friday and guess what ... came out with a prescription for prozac, he seemed to think my TSH of 4.05 was fine and all other symptoms etc were symptoms of anxiety and depression. I have since found a private Doctor and she is sending me an adrenal saliva test and also wishes me to record my temperature. When I have these results she will see me and hopefully will be able to help. I have decided not to take the prozac.

Have your B12 levels checked deficiency causes memory loss,falls,weakness,tinnitus,tiredness,pins & needles in hands.many other symptons.

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