Hypothyroidism In Women: Underactive Thyroid For Females

Thyroid Disease Of Hypothyroidism

Approximately 10 percent of women suffer from hypothyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid gland cannot produce enough thyroid hormones to keep the body functioning as it should due to decreased levels of thyroid hormones. The problem with thyroid function is more common in women than men. There is an eight-fold increased risk of experiencing it among women and an even higher risk among those over 60, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Hyperthyroidism, in which excess thyroid hormone is produced by the thyroid, is less common (affecting about 1 percent of Americans), but the prevalence of hyperthyroidism is higher in women as well. Over time, health problems such as joint pain and obesity can occur from untreated hypothyroidism. Also, hypothyroidism can cause heart disease and infertility if not treated.

Subtle Symptoms Of Hypothyroidism Become More Harmful Through Time

Thyroid problems are often accompanied by subtle symptoms. Hypothyroidism develops slowly. You slow down when your thyroid slows down. You feel colder, slower, and foggier as your metabolism slows, your energy level plummets, and your heart rate drops. It is also known that hypothyroidism increases the risk of diabetes type 2 and infertility. Hyperthyroidism, on the other hand, accelerates bodily functions.

Hormonal Changes Can Be Confused With Signs And Symptoms Of Hypothyroidism

Thyroid problems that affect women can be masked by hormonal changes. Perimenopause usually begins in your 40s, and thyroid issues increase with age. Hypothyroidism and fatigue often share similar symptoms and may cause fatigue, irregular periods, and weight gain.

Symptoms that may indicate thyroid disease instead of menopause: You have an autoimmune disease such as type 1 diabetes or celiac disease or you have a family history of thyroid disease. Hypothyroidism is caused most commonly by inflammation caused by Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune disorder that attacks the thyroid.

Doctors Diagnose Hypothyroidism Differently

The thyroid gland can be tested for a thyroid disorder. Whenever a doctor suspects thyroid problems, he or she will first check your TSH level, which is done through a blood test. The high or abnormal levels of TSH may indicate that your thyroid is not functioning properly, and your body is sending more TSH to tell the thyroid to start working. In any case, what is considered “normal” can vary from person to person. A doctor may not recommend treatment if your test results are between 0.5 and 5 mIU/L, which is considered a normal range. When your levels are technically normal (say, 2.5 to 4 mIU/L), but you are experiencing symptoms, other experts might consider treatment. A T3 or T4 level test might also be recommended by your doctor to determine how healthy your thyroid is.

Thyroid Cancer And Women

Women are three times more likely than men to develop thyroid cancer. Approximately 11 percent of all women will be diagnosed with thyroid cancer during their lifetime. It is estimated that 42,470 new cases of thyroid cancer will be diagnosed in the United States in 2019 and 2,170 women will die from this disease.

The most common type of thyroid cancer is papillary carcinoma, which accounts for approximately 80 percent of all cases. The second most common type is follicular carcinoma, which accounts for approximately 15 percent of cases. The third most common type is medullary thyroid carcinoma, which accounts for approximately 5 percent of cases. The fourth most common type is anaplastic thyroid carcinoma, which accounts for less than 1 percent of cases.

Papillary and follicular carcinomas are generally considered to be low-grade malignancies with excellent prognoses. Medullary thyroid carcinoma and anaplastic thyroid carcinoma are generally considered to be high-grade malignancies with poor prognoses.

The vast majority of thyroid cancers are diagnosed in women between the ages of 40 and 60 years old. However, the incidence of this disease has been increasing in both younger and older women over the past several decades.

There are several risk factors for women getting thyroid cancer. These include:

  • Being of childbearing age
  • Having a history of cervical cancer or other reproductive cancers, such as endometrial cancer or ovarian cancer
  • Having a family history of thyroid cancer, especially if it is hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC) syndrome or familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) syndrome. Both of these syndromes are caused by genetic mutations that increase the risk of getting thyroid cancer.
  • Being exposed to high levels of radiation, such as from having radiation therapy to the head, neck, or chest area for another condition. This includes people who were exposed to radiation from nuclear accidents, such as Chernobyl and Fukushima. People who had medical procedures that used radioactive iodine (I-131), such as treatment for an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism), also have an increased risk for thyroid cancer.
  • Certain changes in the genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 may also increase the risk of developing thyroid cancer. These genes are most commonly associated with breast and ovarian cancers but may play a role in other types of cancer as well.

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