Did you know that thyroid conditions are more common in women than men? Moreover, the incidence rate increases with age; that’s why women experiencing menopause are more likely to develop thyroid issues. What are the common post-menopausal thyroid problems, and what can women do about them? Find out here.
How does menopause affect the thyroid gland?
So, can menopause cause thyroid issues?
There are very few studies that explore how menopause directly affects the thyroid gland. However, at least one piece of research shows that menopause-related estrogen decline can affect thyroid functions and lead to disorders. Moreover, scientists reveal that aging significantly influences thyroid functions.
To get the complete picture, let’s start with the primary function of the thyroid gland.
This butterfly-shaped organ at the base of the neck absorbs iodine and secretes the thyroid hormone, which regulates how our cells use energy.
As we age, the thyroid gland changes. Some of the changes it undergoes are:
- Its ability to absorb iodine decreases.
- The production of the main thyroid hormone T4 decreases (since iodine is needed to produce the hormone).
- However, because aging also decreases our metabolism of T4, the serum concentration doesn’t change much.
- Daily production and serum concentration of T3 thyroid hormone decrease.
The changes may affect the thyroid gland and cause post-menopausal thyroid problems.
Common thyroid issues during menopause
Even though science has yet to give us a definite answer on the question, can menopause cause thyroid issues, studies revealed that the following conditions might occur after menopause.
Hypothyroidism means that your thyroid gland is underactive and produces too little thyroid hormone. This condition makes our body work slowly and results in symptoms, such as:
- Weight gain
- Dry hair and skin
- Impaired memory and concentration
- Mood swings
- Intolerance or sensitivity to cold
Left untreated, hypothyroidism can lead to complications like osteoporosis, heart disease, and high cholesterol. Often, people with an underactive thyroid receive hormone replacement to replenish their thyroid hormone supply.
Hyperthyroidism indicates that the thyroid is overactive; in other words, it’s producing too much thyroid hormone that makes our body work too fast. This condition results in symptoms such as:
- Palpitation or irregular heartbeat
- Shaking or tremors
- Weight loss
- Heat intolerance or sensitivity
- Difficulty sleeping
Hyperthyroidism may lead to heart problems, eye problems, brittle bones, and red, swollen skin when not managed.
Someone who has an overactive thyroid may receive anti-thyroid medications or radioactive thyroid therapy. Additionally, the doctor may recommend thyroid surgery.
Benign nodular thyroid disease
Another common post-menopausal thyroid problem is benign nodular thyroid disease.
In this condition, the thyroid develops non-cancerous nodules or cysts. When the nodule is large, or there are multiple nodules, your thyroid may grow bigger (goiter).
Some of its signs and symptoms are:
- Swollen neck or goiter
- Hoarseness or voice changes
- Neck pain
- Swallowing difficulty
- Breathing difficulty
Nodules can also trigger either hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, so there may also be overactive or underactive thyroid symptoms.
Finally, menopausal women may also develop thyroid cancer.
Reports say that people over 55 have an increased risk of differentiated thyroid cancer, a slow-growing carcinoma. On the other hand, people over the age of 65 have a higher risk of getting anaplastic thyroid cancer—the more aggressive kind that spreads quickly to different body organs.
Symptoms of thyroid cancer are somewhat similar to those experienced by people with benign nodular thyroid disease. Additionally, thyroid cancer patients may also notice a persistent cough not caused by a cold.
Finally, when diagnosed, the woman may undergo surgery since they have “poorer tolerance” to medications.
After menopause, women are at a higher risk of developing post-menopausal thyroid problems like hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, benign nodular thyroid disease, and thyroid cancer.
As you may notice, the symptoms of a thyroid disorder coincide with or are almost the same as the common signs of menopause. For this reason, talk to your doctor right away if you observe the symptoms discussed above.
Learn more about Women’s Health here.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.