Symptoms of Hypothyroidism in Women and Its Complications

Hypothyroidism in women is a serious problem. Women are more likely to have hypothyroidism than men and every time women get pregnant or when they reach middle age, the risk becomes higher. Women experience the symptoms of hypothyroidism more acutely and the risk for complications is also higher. Another scary thing about hypothyroidism is it doesn't show any signs or symptoms during the early stages. One only experiences the symptoms when the disease is already at a severe stage that requires treatment.

Women over 50 are more likely to have hypothyroidism because of the onset of menopause. The reason for this is because the female reproductive system is closely interlinked and interdependent with the endocrine system. When a woman enters menopause, her reproductive system slows down and eventually stops working. The thyroid gland, which is part of the endocrine system, produces thyroid hormones which regulate a number of bodily functions from metabolism to brain function. This complex system of hormone feedback and regulation causes one organ system to be affected when another organ system breaks down. This is also the reason why 5% of women develop hypothyroidism once they give birth. In some instances, the hypothyroidism can be so severe it would require lifelong treatment.

Hypothyroidism in women shows several unique symptoms. The most common symptom in women with hypothyroidism would often have heavier than normal menstrual periods. This could be dangerous when there's too much blood loss and could lead to anemia. Hyperprolactinemia and galactorrhea are also signs of hypothyroidism unique to women. Hyperprolactinemia is a condition wherein the body produces too much prolactin, a protein associated with breast development and breast milk production. Galactorrhea is a symptom wherein the breast produces milk even without pregnancy and childbirth. Both of these conditions can produce symptoms like breast enlargement, breast and nipple pain, and unusual breast discharges.

Decreased libido and mental health issues like depression and anxiety are also signs of mild to moderate hypothyroidism in women. Libido and sexual arousal in women is just as much as a mental reaction as it is a physical reaction. And a woman's hormone levels throughout her menstrual period can affect her mood and personality, as seen in those who suffer from premenstrual syndromes. Low thyroid hormone levels can produce both these symptoms in women with severe hypothyroidism. Another serious symptom of sever hypothyroidism is infertility. Thyroid hormones supplements may help resolve the libido and mental health issues, but infertility may be permanent even with treatment.

Women with undiagnosed hypothyroidism while they're pregnant could give birth to children with birth defects. These babies may have significant physical and mental defects because the thyroid hormone is vital for brain and body development. Fortunately, an abbreviated thyroid function test is part of standard newborn screening. When diagnosed and treated immediately after birth, the baby is expected to develop normally.

Obesity is a serious hypothyroidism symptom for women because it produces so many complications. One serious complication is depression and self-esteem issues due to the drastic change in appearance. Obesity in women also produces a host of problems like polycystic ovarian syndrome, heart disease and heart failure.