Women develop thyroid problems at a higher frequency than men. Weaker immune system and predisposition towards certain health conditions lead to thyroid disorder in women. The common manifestations in women are hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, postpartum thyroiditis and thyroid nodules.
If you are a woman who has a family history of thyroid disorders or nearing menopause, you should keep an eye on your thyroid levels through regular blood screenings. Thyroid hormones perform a wide range of functions in your body. Slightest irregularities in the thyroid function can lead to numerous ill effects on the bodily functions. Learning what is thyroid and the factors that make you vulnerable to thyroid problems can help you prevent major health issues.
The common manifestations of thyroid disorder in women include hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, postpartum thyroiditis and thyroid nodules. Occasionally thyroid cancer can also be the reason for thyroid imbalance. Each problem comes with its own set of signs and symptoms in women. It is also advisable to keep a track of the factors which can render you more likely to suffer from thyroid problems.
Here’s what you should know about thyroid
Before delving into the signs of thyroid disorder in women, you should know what is thyroid. The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped membranous gland located in the front of your neck. This endocrine gland’s major function is to secrete thyroid hormones which are meant to maintain metabolism and several body functions in your body.
Thyroid Hormones Functions
Thyroid hormones are made up of 3 distinct hormones, each performing different sets of functions.
|Hormone||Full name||Breakdown||Release Mechanism||Function|
|T4||Thyroxine||Converted to T3 by deiodinases in cell||Hypothalamus to the pituitary to thyroid gland using feedback mechanism.||Functions as the storage form of T3.|
|T3||Triiodothyronine||Decarboxylated and deionized into iodothyronine and thyronamine.||-do-||Maintenance of overall metabolism rate and growth.|
|Calcitonin||Thyrocalcitonin||Breaks down into peptides (1)||Feedback mechanism involving parafollicular cells and somatostatin hormone||Maintenance of blood calcium and phosphorus levels during hypercalcemia.|
How thyroid malfunction affect women
1 in 8 women is likely to suffer from some sort of thyroid problems in their lifetime according to American Thyroid Association.
What is more terrifying is that the problems can interfere with reproduction and pregnancy. Thyroid imbalances like hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism can have antagonistic effects on the female reproductive cycle.
- Excess or underproduction of thyroid can change the duration and intensity of menstruation. You may also suffer from amenorrhea or menorrhagia. In case of immunity-related thyroid disease, other reproductive organs are also involved. This may cause early menopause.
- A thyroid disorder can interfere with normal ovulation and make it harder for you to conceive.
- Thyroid symptoms in women are well masked during pregnancy. This can have detrimental effects on the mother and fetus.
Signs of thyroid disorder in women
Women suffer from thyroid diseases silently. That is because most symptoms are confused with the menopausal issue and other common diseases like diabetes and hypertension. The symptoms also overlap among different types of thyroid problems.
Drastic Weight Changes:
Women are prone to weight changes throughout their lives. But if you observe a persistent weight loss or weight gain without changing your diet, you should get your thyroid levels tested. While hyperthyroidism hastens your metabolism causing voracious hunger and weight loss; hypothyroidism slows down metabolism and causes a buildup of fat.
Fatigue is common for women who juggle with a lot of work at a time. But continuous fatigue may point towards thyroid disorder. Excessive fatigue all the time can be due to an underactive thyroid.
Jittery feeling with intervals of extreme fatigue is a symptom of thyroid overdrive.
Fluctuating Blood Pressure:
Hyperthyroidism causes your heart to overwork and raises your blood pressure. Low blood pressure is common when the cardiac function slows down due to low thyroid. Both are dangerous situations and can cause cardiac arrest.
If your menstrual flow alters suddenly without any apparent reason, you might be suffering from a thyroid problem. Hypothyroidism can cause heavier flow while you may experience little or no flow in case of hyperthyroidism. Anovulation is also common when you have thyroid disorder.
Mood Swing and Clouded Memory:
Women experience mood swings often due to PMS or menopause. Changes in thyroid levels can also cause extreme mood swings from depression in hypothyroidism to irritability in hyperthyroidism (5). Low thyroid levels can also cause you to become foggy or leave you confused at times.
Irritable Puffy Eyes:
If you have bulging eyes which are dry and itchy, you may be suffering from autoimmune thyroid disorder (Grave’s disease). This thyroid disease causes hyperthyroidism. A pronounced case of dry and irritated eyes without swelling can be attributed to hypothyroidism.
Postpartum Mood Swings:
Alternating phases of depression or extreme mood fluctuations after delivery in women can be due to thyroiditis. Inflammation of the thyroid can result in initial hyperthyroidism symptoms. Later on signs of low thyroid manifest.
If you observe a swelling in the front of your neck, it can be a goiter. It is an enlarged thyroid gland which can occur due to lack of thyroid or Grave’s disease. Rarely it may be caused due to benign thyroid nodules or thyroid cancer.
Sensitivity to Heat/Cold:
If you feel cold constantly even at room temperatures, this could be a symptom of hypothyroidism as slow metabolism results is lesser blood flow. On the other hand, hyperthyroidism can cause constant sweating due to heat sensitivity.
Why women are predisposed to thyroid disorder
Estrogen dominance plays an important role in the higher rate of autoimmune disorders like Grave’s disease and Hashimoto’s disease. These affect thyroid glands that result in low or excess of hormone secretion.
Hormone fluctuations interact and modify your immune system which puts you at a greater risk for thyroid problems. A family history of thyroid issues and diseases like diabetes also increase the risk in women.
Studies show that early diagnosis can improve recovery rates with medications and supportive therapies like exercise and diet modification.
Can thyroid cancer cause thyroid disorder?
Yes, alteration and destruction of thyroid cells. This change can result in thyroid disorder.
Are thyroid nodules cancerous?
No, thyroid nodules are benign in nature.
What are anti-thyroid medications?
These medications help in suppressing excess thyroid hormone secretion. Anti-thyroid medications are used to treat hyperthyroidism.
What is Hashimoto’s disease?
Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disorder that destroys thyroid cells. Hence the person suffers from hypothyroidism.
What is radioiodine treatment?
In this treatment, radioactive iodine is used to kill thyroid cells. Radioiodine is used to treat hyperthyroidism.