Thyroid Disease in Women

Thyroid disease affects approximately 27 million people in the United States. More women than men are commonly found to suffer from thyroid symptoms. It is estimated that 4 out of 100 women have some type of autoimmune thyroid disease.

A thyroid that is underproducing thyroid hormone is termed hypothyroidism. It is characterized by insufficient levels of the primary thyroid hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). Thyroxine is transformed into it's active form of triiodothyronine by the liver.

As women have a higher incidence of thyroid problems than men, hypothyroidism is the main diagnosis, resulting in fatigue, weight gain, depression, high cholesterol and other symptoms. By contrast, a smaller number of women develop hyperthyroidism, or an overproduction of thyroid hormone in the blood.

Symptoms of thyroid disease:

  • Feeling warm
  • Increased perspiration
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Trembling hands
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Irritability / anxiety
  • Eye discomfort
  • Menstrual changes
  • Inability to conceive
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Sluggishness
  • Feeling cold
  • Weight gain of 5-10 pounds
  • Dry hair and skin
  • Constipation
  • Menstrual changes

Hormone Imbalance And Menopause

Approximately 20% of menopausal women in the US are diagnosed with a problematic thyroid, and many women go undiagnosed. For women in their late 30's or 40's, hypothyroidism is indicative of being perimenopausal, which is the time of up to 15 years of before menopause. Some women experience menopause in their early 40s, especially if their mothers entered menopause at a relatively early age.

What causes a woman to develop hypothyroidism?

A hormone imbalance of estrogen and progesterone, as well as emotional and physical stresses can cause thyroid dysfunction. Perimenopause, menopause, and pregnancy are known culprits of hormone imbalance that can cause hypothyroidism. An imbalance of more estrogen than progesterone can cause the hypoactive thyroid to produce less thyroid hormones, resulting in hypothryoidism. This can be remedied by a prescription of progesterone supplements to bring this imbalance more into balance, thus alleviating symptoms of hypoactivity.

Other causes can include adrenal fatigue and insulin resistance. The adrenal glands are located on top of our kidneys and are responsible for releasing adrenaline, which is essential in the flight or fight response.

This is a stress response and if it goes on for too long, the adrenal glands can become fatigued. This can have a direct response on the thyroid gland and it's ability to function correctly, resulting in hypothyroidism.

Insulin resistance often goes hand in hand with underactive thyroid, which has a relationship with poor nutrition that can disrupt thyroid functionality. Women should be tested for insulin resistance if they have been diagnosed with a hypoactive thyroid.

In order for the thyroid to function normally, it is important to be able to manage stress, nutrition, and exercise, as well as the balance of the major hormones. They all work together for the common good of the body. The old saying "no man is an island", can be related to your thyroid too. It can not work alone, as it takes a concerted effort of the whole body for everything to work as it should.

Symptoms of an underactive thyroid can easily be mistaken for some other condition, which can cause a delay in much needed treatment. If thyroid malfunction is the cause of your symptoms, a simple blood test will bear this out. You will feel much better in a few weeks of starting thyroid therapy, if it has been determined that you indeed have a thyroid problem. Check with your physician to rule out any other underlying or more serious conditions.

(Posted by Barb Hicks at