What is the thyroid?
Thyroid disease affects the thyroid gland, a small butterfly-shaped gland at the base of your neck, below Adam’s apple. This gland produces thyroid hormone that travels in your blood to all parts of your body. Thyroid hormone panels your body’s metabolism in many ways, including how fast you burn calories and how fast your heartbeats.
How does thyroid disease affect women?
Women are more probable than men to have thyroid disease. One in eight women will develop thyroid problems in her lifetime. In women, thyroid disease can cause:
- Problems with your menstrual period. Your thyroid helps control your menstrual cycle. Too ample or too little thyroid hormone can make your periods very light, heavy, or irregular. Thyroid disease can also cause your periods to stop for numerous months or more, a condition called amenorrhea. If your body’s immune system causes thyroid disease, other glands, with the ovaries, may be involved. This can main to early menopause (before age 40).
- Trouble receiving pregnancy When thyroid disease affects the menstrual cycle, it also affects ovulation. This can make it difficult for you to get pregnant.
- Problems during pregnancy. Thyroid problems during pregnancy can cause health glitches for mother and baby.
- Sometimes the symptoms of thyroid problems are confused with those of menopause. Thyroid disease, especially hypothyroidism, is more probable to develop after menopause.
Causes of thyroid disease in women
All types of hyperthyroidism are due to an overproduction of thyroid hormones, but the condition can occur in a number of ways:
Graves’ disease: Production of too much thyroid hormone.
Toxic adenomas: Nodules develop in the thyroid gland and begin to secrete thyroid hormones, upsetting the chemical balance of the body, some goiters may contain several of these nodules.
Subacute thyroiditis: Inflammation of the thyroid causes the gland to “lose” excess hormones, resulting in temporary hyperthyroidism that usually lasts for a few weeks but can persist for months.
Malfunction of the pituitary gland or cancerous growths in the thyroid gland: Although rare, hyperthyroidism can also develop from these causes.
Hypothyroidism, on the other hand, is due to an underproduction of thyroid hormones. Since your body’s energy production requires certain amounts of thyroid hormones, a decrease in hormone production leads to lower energy levels. The causes of hypothyroidism include:
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis: In this autoimmune disorder, the body attacks the thyroid tissue. The tissue eventually dies and stops producing hormones.
Thyroid gland removal: The thyroid may have been surgically removed or chemically destroyed.
Exposure to excessive quantities of iodide: Cold and sinus medications, heart medication amiodarone, or certain contrast dyes given before some X-rays can expose you to too much iodine. You may have a higher risk of developing hypothyroidism if you have had thyroid problems in the past.
Lithium: This drug has also been concerned as a cause of hypothyroidism.
Symptoms of thyroid disease in women
There are a variety of symptoms that you might experience if you have thyroid disease. Unfortunately, the symptoms of a thyroid condition are often very similar to the signs of other medical conditions and stages of life. This can make it difficult to know if your symptoms are related to a thyroid problem or something else entirely.
For the most part, the symptoms of thyroid disease can be alienated into two groups, those related to having too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism) and those related to having too little thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism).
Symptoms of an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) can include:
- Experiencing anxiety, irritability, and nervousness
- Having trouble sleeping
- Lose weight
- Have an enlarged thyroid gland or goiter
- Have muscle weakness and tremors
- Having irregular menstrual periods or stopping your menstrual cycle
- The sensation of sensitivity to heat
- Have vision problems or eye irritation
Symptoms of an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) can include:
- Feeling tired (fatigue)
- Winning weight.
- Experience oblivion
- Have frequent and heavy menstrual periods
- Have dry and rough hair
- Have a hoarse voice
- Experiencing intolerance to low temperatures
Who is affected by thyroid disease?
Thyroid disease can affect anyone. Men, women, infants, adolescents, and the elderly. It can be present at birth (typically hypothyroidism) and can mature with age (often after menopause in women).
Thyroid disease is very common, and an assessed 20 million people in the United States have some type of thyroid disorder. A woman is five to eight times more likely to be diagnosed with thyroid disease than a man.
You may be at higher risk of developing thyroid disease if:
- You have family antiquity of thyroid disease
- You have a medical condition (which may include pernicious anemia, type 1 diabetes, primary adrenal insufficiency, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Sjögren’s syndrome, and Turner’s syndrome)
- Take medicine that is high in iodine (amiodarone)
- They are over 60 years old, especially in women
- You have had treatment for a thyroid condition or cancer in the past (thyroidectomy or radiation)
Risk factors of thyroid disease in women
Risk factors include:
- Family history: Having a family member with autoimmune thyroid disease
- Age: Hypothyroidism can start at any age, but the risk continues to increase as people age
- Gender: Hypothyroidism is more common in women than in men. It is much more communal in new women than young men, but as men get older, they start to catch up
- Race: Hypothyroidism is common in Caucasians and Asians. African Americans are at lower risk
- Presence of other autoimmune disorders
- Down syndrome or Turner syndrome
Thyroid disease after pregnancy
- Up to 1 in 10 women develop postpartum thyroiditis, an inflammation of the thyroid several months after giving birth.
- When the thyroid becomes inflamed, it can leak hormones, making it slightly hyperthyroid (when the gland overproduces thyroid hormone).
- Then when you run out of thyroid hormone, you can develop hypothyroidism until your gland heals.
- The symptoms can be very subtle. Some women lose weight; others feel anxious.
- You could blame these things on being a new mom. But if the diagnosis is missed, it is generally not critical. If it’s really mild, just look at it. In most women, it all resolves in several months.
- If it’s severe, you may need treatment for symptoms.
- In most women, the hyperthyroid and hypothyroid phases last for several weeks.
- But not all women experience both phases. About 5% of women will be left-hand with permanent hypothyroidism.
- It tends to recur in later pregnancies and is also more common in women with autoimmune diseases.
Treatment for thyroid disease
You take a synthetic version of thyroid hormone in a pill to replace what your body doesn’t make.
Diagnosis of thyroid disease
In addition to a complete medical history and physical exam, specialized tests are used to diagnose thyroid disorders. Blood tests are usually done to measure the levels of thyroid hormones and TSH. Your doctor may also order blood tests to identify antibodies against thyroid tissue, such as antithyroglobulin, anti thyroperoxidase, or TSH receptor stimulant antibody titers.
Imaging tests are commonly used when there are thyroid nodules or enlargement. Ultrasound can visualize the constancy of the tissue within the gland and can often reveal cysts or calcifications. Ultrasound examination cannot distinguish a benign process from a malignant one.
Radioactive iodine scans of the thyroid are often done to evaluate the function of thyroid nodules. The thyroid is the only place in the body that absorbs iodine, so when radiolabelled iodine is administered, it is absorbed by the thyroid gland. An imaging test typically shows radioactive iodine uptake by normal thyroid tissue.
Areas or nodules that produce excess hormones (known as hyperfunction) will show increased absorption of iodine. These are known as nodules or “hot” areas. In contrast, so-called “cold” nodules represent areas with decreased iodine uptake. The “cold” nodules do not produce excess hormones and can sometimes represent cancer.
Fine needle aspiration and biopsy are techniques that remove a taster of cells or tissue from the thyroid gland for inspection and diagnosis by a pathologist, who is a physician trained in the diagnosis of conditions based on tissue samples. Fine needle aspiration (FNA) uses a long, thin needle to remove a sample of cells from the thyroid. FNA can be done in the doctor’s office. Sometimes ultrasound images are used to guide the FNA procedure. A biopsy is the surgical sampling of tissue.