(Tina Dawn/ VM Med) — May 25th is World Thyroid Day and it’s as good a time as any to raise awareness about this little gland in our body that controls so much.
The thyroid’s primary function is to control our body’s metabolism. When people think of metabolism, they tend to think of their body’s ability to burn calories. But metabolism affects much more than that. It also affects our body temperature and our heart rate, which have far more serious implications for one’s health.
Many people are unaware that the risk for women to have thyroid disorders is ten times higher than in men, partly due to the huge role hormones play in a woman’s reproductive life. It makes women far more susceptible to possible complications. It’s therefore important for women to be alert about any possible thyroid issues that may present themselves throughout their lives.
Thyroid conditions affecting women
Thyroid conditions can affect women of any age. Even more importantly, thyroid conditions and the subsequent imbalance in hormones caused by an overactive or underactive thyroid can affect a woman’s reproductive system.
In a women’s younger years, a thyroid condition can cause puberty and her period to occur too early or very late. Depending on the presence of too many or too few hormones, women with a thyroid disorder can experience very light or very heavy menstrual periods. In some cases, thyroid disorders can make your period less regular or could stop your periods completely.
If a woman is trying to conceive, a thyroid disorder may affect her fertility. An overactive or underactive thyroid may affect, or even entirely prevent, ovulation from happening. Women who experience an underactive thyroid also run a higher risk of developing ovarian cysts.
During pregnancy, a woman with thyroid disorders runs the risk of experiencing several potential complications. It’s why it’s so important for a pregnant woman to be aware of the signs of thyroid disorders and ensure that she and her doctor take extra measures to monitor her health before and after the birth.
Thyroid disorders can be dangerous for the baby a woman is carrying and can even lead to more problems for the mother after she’s given birth, such as postpartum thyroiditis. Women who are pregnant and lacking in thyroid hormone run a higher risk of miscarriages, premature labour, stillbirth, and postpartum bleeding. Women who have an overactive thyroid during pregnancy run the risk of experiencing severe morning sickness. It’s vital for both the mother’s and the baby’s health that a thyroid condition is diagnosed and monitored by the medical professional throughout the pregnancy.
In a woman’s older years, thyroid disorders may also cause early menopause to occur. It’s not uncommon for women who have thyroid disorders to enter menopause in their early 40s.
Sometimes, women who have an overactive thyroid experience symptoms that mimic symptoms of menopause but really aren’t menopause. They stop getting their period, they experience hot flashes, and they have trouble sleeping. Medical professionals can treat hypothyroidism by preventing early menopause or simply easing the symptoms of early menopause. Many women confuse the symptoms of thyroid disorders with side-effects of menopause, which can prevent them from consulting their doctor and seeking treatment.
Pay attention to the tell-tale signs of thyroid disorders in women
Considering that thyroid disorders are quite common in women (statistically one in eight women will develop thyroid problems during her lifetime) and thyroid disorders can affect a wide range of health issues throughout a woman’s life, it’s important to remain informed and aware of the signs.
Common symptoms include feeling tired or lacking energy even after a good nights’ sleep. Experiencing sudden and unexplained weight loss or weight gain, even though you have made no changes in your diet or exercise routine. Experiencing sudden and unexplained mood swings, anxiety, or depression. Inability to sleep or sleeping too much.
Thyroid disorders like Hashimoto’s autoimmune disease, which causes hypothyroidism, can cause brain fog, hair loss, slow metabolism, bloating, or high blood pressure, if left untreated.
Another common condition for women caused by an overactive thyroid gland is called Grave’s disease and can also cause hyperthyroidism. If left untreated, Grave’s disease can cause weight loss, unexplained fatigue, sweating, heart palpitations, and sleep issues, among other symptoms.
Considering that many of the effects and risks associated with thyroid disorders in women can be managed with the right treatment, it’s vital that women pay attention to their bodies. Any observable changes should be diagnosed and treated by their doctor.