What Women Need to Know About Thyroid Disease

According to the American Thyroid Association, women are five to eight times more likely than men to develop thyroid disease; more than 12 percent of women will develop a thyroid disorder during their lifetime.

Because women are more likely to develop thyroid disease, it’s especially important for women to know what causes thyroid problems, how to identify that there’s an issue, and when to talk to a doctor for thyroid disorders.

One out of eight women develop a thyroid disorder. Know the risk factors, the symptoms of a thyroid problem, and when to talk to a doctor. Click To Tweet

What causes thyroid problems?

The thyroid is a small gland located in the front of the neck that converts iodine into thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormones travel through the blood and affect every cell in the body; they regulate how quickly your body burns calories, your heart rate, and your body temperature.

The exact causes of thyroid problems aren’t always identifiable. Thyroid diseases include hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, and other disorders of the thyroid gland.

There are some factors that increase the risk of developing a thyroid condition:

  • A history of thyroid problems increases your risk for thyroid disorders.
  • Procedures affecting the thyroid gland, such as surgery or radiation therapy, can increase risk for thyroid disease.
  • A personal or family history of autoimmune disorders such as type 1 diabetes, Graves’ disease, or Hashimoto’s disease increases your risk.
  • Women are at a higher risk for thyroid disease. A woman’s risk for thyroid disease increases immediately after pregnancy or menopause.
  • Lifestyle factors can increase your risk for thyroid problems, as well. Smoking, injury to the thyroid gland, psychological stress, and the use of medications that are high in iodine have been linked with an increased risk for thyroid disease.
  • Thyroid problems tend to affect older women. Women older than 60 are at a higher risk for thyroid gland problems.

What are the symptoms of thyroid disease?

Thyroid disease affects thyroid hormone production; it may cause your body to produce too much thyroid hormone or not enough. The effect that the disease has on your body depends on how the disease affects your hormone production.

With hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid, your thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone. This may result in decreased metabolism, slower heart rate, and additional symptoms:

  • feeling cold when others do not feel cold
  • muscle fatigue
  • joint pain
  • muscle pain
  • pale, dry skin
  • puffy face
  • sweating less than usual
  • weight gain despite not eating more
  • high LDL cholesterol

With hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid, you produce too much thyroid hormone. Hyperthyroidism may result in increased metabolism, a faster heart rate, and other symptoms:

  • unexplained weight loss
  • larger appetite
  • irregular heartbeat
  • sweating
  • irritability
  • sleep problems
  • diarrhea or more frequent bowel movements

Do women have different symptoms of thyroid disease than men?

Thyroid disease in women can affect menstrual cycle resulting in light, heavy, or irregular periods. Thyroid disorders can cause amenorrhea, which means that your periods stop for several months.

The symptoms of thyroid disease in women can be mistaken for menopause. In some cases thyroid problems can lead to early menopause.

Problems with thyroids can affect ovulation, making it difficult for women to get pregnant.

Women with thyroid disease may have health problems during pregnancy; this can also cause health problems for the baby.

When should women talk to a doctor about thyroid disease?

The American Thyroid Association states that as many as 60% of people with thyroid conditions do not realize that they have a problem. Talk to your doctor if you notice symptoms of thyroid disease, such as inexplicable fatigue, dry skin, puffy face, or unexplained weight loss or weight gain.

Thyroid disease can cause many different symptoms: weight loss or weight gain, increased heart rate or decreased heart rate, fatigue or restlessness. This can make it difficult to identify thyroid disorders.

Most women do not need to screen for thyroid disease, but regular visits with your doctor can help stay ahead of issues with your thyroid gland. Your doctor may recommend a TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) blood test to learn more about your thyroid health.

Make sure that you share any symptoms or changes in your health with your physician, no matter how insignificant they may seem. The more information that your doctor has, the better quality of care your doctor can provide.

Renaissance Women’s Healthcare specializes in comprehensive healthcare for women in all stages of life.