What Are the Effects of Thyroid Problems in Women
Thyroid problems can cause hormonal imbalances that affect a woman’s reproductive system, impacting menstruation, ovulation, and pregnancy

Your thyroid regulates your metabolism and growth by releasing the hormones T4 (thyroxine) and T3 (triiodothyronine), which tell your cells how much energy to use. Thyroid problems can cause hormonal imbalances that affect a woman’s reproductive system, impacting menstruation, ovulation, and pregnancy:

What is the thyroid gland?

The thyroid is an H-shaped or butterfly-shaped organ located in the front of the neck. It is about 2 inches long, with the horizontal part of the H placed across and in front of the trachea and the vertical part of the H or the wings extending along the side of the trachea. 

The thyroid is part of the endocrine system and controlled by the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland regulates the thyroid gland to release hormones through the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).

Women are more prone to thyroid disease than men due to hormonal fluctuations, and about 1 in 8 women will have a thyroid problem in their lifetime.

What kinds of thyroid disease affect women?

Thyroid diseases that affect women include:

Overstimulation of TSH hormones or local dysregulation in the production of thyroid hormones can lead to thyroid nodules and thyroid cancers, which need to be surgically removed.

What are risk factors for thyroid disease?

Thyroid disease can develop at any age, but the risk is higher in women after menopause. Other risk factors include:

SLIDESHOW

Hyperthyroidism: Symptoms, Treatment, Medication See Slideshow

What symptoms can occur with thyroid disease?

Symptoms of thyroid disease are often very similar to those of other conditions, making diagnosis difficult. Symptoms of thyroid disease can be divided into two groups: hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism.

Symptoms of hyperthyroidism may include:

Symptoms of hypothyroidism may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Frequent and heavy menstrual bleeding
  • Dry hair
  • Hair loss
  • Hoarse voice
  • Intolerance to cold

How is thyroid disease treated?

The goal of treatment is to stabilize thyroid hormone levels through medications or surgical procedures.

Treatment options for hyperthyroidism may include:

  • Antithyroid drugs: Medications such as methimazole and propylthiouracil stop the thyroid from producing hormones.
  • Radioactive iodine: Radiation therapy destroys thyroid gland cells, thus preventing the production of thyroid hormones.
  • Beta-blockers: These medications help control symptoms without affecting thyroid hormone levels.
  • Surgery: Surgery is considered a permanent form of treatment in which the thyroid gland is surgically removed (thyroidectomy). The remaining part of the thyroid thus produces smaller amounts of thyroid hormones. However, thyroid replacement hormones need to be taken to maintain the hormone levels.

Treatment for hypothyroidism includes:

  • Thyroid replacement medication: A synthetic drug that mimics the natural thyroid hormones is used to restore normal levels in the body. A commonly used drug is called levothyroxine. Long-term use of this medication can help control thyroid hormone levels and reduce most symptoms of hypothyroidism.

Treatment for postpartum thyroiditis depends on the phase of the disease. The initial phase of hyperthyroidism can be treated with the goal of reducing heart rate and relieving other symptoms such as anxiety, diarrhea, and fever. In most cases, thyroid hormones return to normal within 12-18 months of symptom onset. A history of postpartum thyroiditis increases the risk of developing permanent hypothyroidism within 5-10 years.

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Medically Reviewed on 2/24/2022
References
Image Source: iStock Images

Orlander PR. Hypothyroidism. Medscape. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/122393-overview

Johns Hopkins Medicine. Thyroid Disorders in Women. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/thyroid-disorders-in-women#

Lee SL. Hyperthyroidism and Thyrotoxicosis. Medscape. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/121865-overview