January is Thyroid Awareness Month! To help raise awareness about thyroid disease, let’s talk about thyroid disorders and menopause. Thyroid disorders are incredibly common among women, and the risk for thyroid issues increases with age. Most cases of thyroid disorders occur in middle aged women, which is also typically when menopause occurs. In some cases, you may have both at the same time. Some women mistake thyroid disorder symptoms for menopause and vice versa. Also, thyroid issues can cause worse menopause symptoms. There are many ways thyroid disease and menopause can interact, which is why it’s important to talk to our women’s health care providers about your overall health. We offer diagnosis and treatment for both thyroid disease and menopause to help alleviate your symptoms and reduce other health risks associated with both thyroid disorders and menopause.
The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of your neck, just above the collarbone. Its purpose is to produce thyroid hormones, which affect practically every cell in your body. Thyroid hormones are responsible for a wide range of functions in the body, including your metabolism and heart rate. The more thyroid hormone in your body, the higher your metabolism is and the higher your heart rate. However, thyroid disorders negatively affect normal functioning of the thyroid gland. Women are between five and eight times more likely than men to suffer from thyroid disorders. In fact, an estimated one in eight women will experience thyroid issues at some point in their lifetimes. Because the thyroid plays such a key role in your health, it’s important to talk to our women’s health care provider if you think you may be suffering from a thyroid disorder.
Generally, thyroid disorders involve either an overactive or underactive thyroid. Overactive thyroids produce more thyroid than your body needs. Underactive thyroids produce less thyroid hormone than your body needs. Both can cause serious issues for your health, as well as a variety of symptoms that can interfere with your everyday life.
Hyperthyroid involves an overactive thyroid where you produce too much thyroid hormone. This essentially causes your body to speed up. For instance, with too much thyroid hormone circulating in your body, you may have an increase in metabolism to the point it creates health issues, like unexplained weight loss.
By contrast, hypothyroid is where you don’t produce enough thyroid hormone. With low thyroid, your body and its functions can start to slow down. One example is you may feel more tired than usual and feel like you need to sleep more. Just like hyperthyroidism, this can also negatively impact your health.
Autoimmune diseases are most commonly to blame for thyroid disorders in the U.S. The most common cause of hypothyroid is Hashimoto’s disease, which causes your body to develop antibodies that attack the thyroid gland. Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disease that is the culprit for most cases of hyperthyroid in America. This disease causes your body to create an antibody that actually mimics thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), which is responsible for boosting thyroid production when your body needs more. Because the antibody acts like TSH, it causes your body to produce too much thyroid hormone.
If you think you may have a thyroid disorder, talk to one of our women’s health care providers. We can help diagnose and treat both hypothyroid and hyperthyroid. In most cases, diagnosis starts with a simple blood test. Blood panels may look at many factors to assess whether you have a thyroid disorder. Thyroid tests may look at the amount of thyroid stimulating hormone in your blood, T3 & T4 (types of thyroid hormone) levels, and thyroid antibody levels. Diagnosis may also include thyroid scans and ultrasounds.
If you have a thyroid disorder, our women’s health clinic can also help with treatment. Treating hypothyroid typically involves taking medications that supplement your natural thyroid hormone levels. They are generally man-made versions of thyroid hormones and come in different forms, like pills or injections. In most cases, you will need hypothyroid treatment for the rest of your life to relieve symptoms and reduce some of the risks associated with low thyroid levels.
Treating hyperthyroid means reducing how much thyroid hormone is in your body. There are many approaches to this. Treatments from your women’s health care provider may include medicines that reduce thyroid production or reduce the effects of thyroid hormone in your body. In these cases, most people need lifelong treatment. Other potential options for hyperthyroid include radiation therapy to target and kill some of the thyroid cells and shrink the thyroid gland. Another option includes surgically removing part or all of the overactive thyroid gland.
Some symptoms of hypothyroid include:
Some symptoms of hyperthyroid include:
You may have noticed when reading those lists that both hyperthyroid and hypothyroid have similar symptoms to menopause, namely mood changes, menstrual changes, hot flashes, insomnia, and libido changes. Many women also experience weight gain around the time of menopause, which is common for people with hypothyroid. Therefore, it may be easy to mistake symptoms of thyroid disorders for menopause.
In addition, thyroid disorders may make your menopause symptoms worse. In some cases, you may need to treat both your thyroid disease and your low hormone levels from menopause to alleviate your symptoms.
Any time you experience symptoms like temperature intolerances, hot flashes, mood changes, unexplained weight changes, or other similar symptoms, it helps to talk to your women’s health care provider. Our team can help find underlying causes of your symptoms and identify personalized treatment options that suit your lifestyle.
Untreated thyroid disorders can cause major problems for your health. Thyroid disease can increase your risk for many other serious health conditions. For instance, hypothyroid can increase the risk for high cholesterol, heart disease, and depression. Hyperthyroid can also increase the risk for heart disease and may increase the risk for vision issues. One common side effect of untreated hyperthyroid is called Graves’ ophthalmopathy, which can cause eye pain, light sensitivity, double vision, and even vision loss.
Thyroid disease of any kind can increase the risk for goiter, which is where the thyroid gland becomes enlarged, even to the point where you can feel the lump in your neck or experience symptoms like difficulty swallowing, cough, difficulty breathing, and hoarseness. Our doctors are here to help you reduce your risks for your overall health and well-being.
Thyroid issues can also make menopause health risks worse. For instance, osteoporosis is a serious risk for women after menopause. Osteoporosis is where your bones become weaker and more brittle, increasing the risk for fractures. Both hyperthyroid and hypothyroid can also increase the risk for osteoporosis, making it a double whammy if you have a thyroid disorder and are menopausal. Our women’s health care providers can discuss options to help protect your bones and reduce the risks based on your specific circumstances.
When you need better healthcare for women, choose our team at HerKare. We are a women’s health clinic founded by and run by women, for women. We pride ourselves on offering personalized care for women. Our team offers a wide range of healthcare services, from annual exams to HRT for menopause and treatments for health conditions like thyroid disease. Our goal is to empower women to take care of themselves by making healthcare as efficient and convenient as possible. Make an appointment today to take charge of your health.