The thyroid is the “heart” of the endocrine system. As one of the largest endocrine glands, it plays an important role in maintaining energy levels and secreting hormones—among other things.
It’s estimated that as many as 25 million Americans have a thyroid problem, and half of them have no idea that they do. The thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland in the center of your neck, is the master gland of metabolism. How well your thyroid is functioning is inter-related with every system in your body. If your thyroid is not running optimally, then neither are you.
How do thyroid problems affect women?
Women are more likely than men to have thyroid disease. One in eight women will develop thyroid problems during her lifetime. In women, thyroid diseases can cause:
- Problems with your menstrual period.
- Problems getting pregnant.
- Problems during pregnancy.
Sometimes, symptoms of thyroid problems are mistaken for menopause symptoms. Thyroid disease, especially hypothyroidism, is more likely to develop after menopause.
What kinds of thyroid disease affect women?
These thyroid diseases affect more women than men:
- Disorders that cause hypothyroidism
- Disorders that cause hyperthyroidism
- Thyroid nodules
- Thyroid cancer
What is hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism is when your thyroid does not make enough thyroid hormones. It is also called underactive thyroid. This slows down many of your body’s functions, like your metabolism.
What are the signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism?
Symptoms of hypothyroidism develop slowly, often over several years. At first, you may feel tired and sluggish. Later, you may develop other signs and symptoms of a slowed-down metabolism, including:
- Feeling cold when other people do not
- Muscle weakness
- Weight gain, even though you are not eating more food
- Joint or muscle pain
- Feeling sad or depressed
- Feeling very tired
- Pale, dry skin
- Dry, thinning hair
- Slow heart rate
- Less sweating than usual
- A puffy face
- A hoarse voice
- More than usual menstrual bleeding
What is hyperthyroidism?
Hyperthyroidism or overactive thyroid, causes your thyroid to make more thyroid hormone than your body needs. This speeds up many of your body’s functions, like your metabolism and heart rate.
What are the signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism?
At first, you might not notice the signs or symptoms of hyperthyroidism. Symptoms usually begin slowly. But, over time, a faster metabolism can cause symptoms such as:
- Weight loss, even if you eat the same or more food (most but not all people lose weight)
- Eating more than usual
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat or pounding of your heart
- Feeling nervous or anxious
- Feeling irritable
- Trouble sleeping
- Trembling in your hands and fingers
- Increased sweating
- Feeling hot when other people do not
- Muscle weakness
- Diarrhea or more bowel movements than normal
- Fewer and lighter menstrual periods than normal
- Changes in your eyes that can include bulging of the eyes, redness, or irritation
Hyperthyroidism raises your risk for osteoporosis, a condition that causes weak bones that break easily. In fact, hyperthyroidism might affect your bones before you have any of the other symptoms of the condition. This is especially true of women who have gone through menopause or who are already at high risk of osteoporosis.
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