Underactive Thyroid Symptoms in Women – A Critical Review
Are symptoms of hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid gland) in women being ignored or misdiagnosed?
It may come as a great surprise to learn that, owing to their common and diverse nature, underactive thyroid symptoms in women are far more common than many people realize. For this reason an underactive thyroid may go untreated for longer than is safe. Some statistics claim that as many as one in eight women in America between the ages of 35 and 65 are affected by thyroid problems and for women over 65, this number rises to one in five (that's 20 percent). Nevertheless, one thing is certain about hypothyroidism and that is that the risk of underactive thyroid symptoms in women is 10 times greater than in men. Furthermore, because underactive thyroid symptoms are so similar to those of menopause, there is an even greater chance that these hypothyroidism symptoms in women will be missed by their GP; for obvious reason, this becomes more of a concern for women exhibiting underactive thyroid symptoms over the age of 50.
Subclinical Underactive Thyroid Symptoms in Women
The term hypothyroidism refers to the metabolic state that exists as a result of a reduction in the amount of thyroid hormones in the body. As such, it can be classified in 3 different ways:
In many cases women may suffer from subclinical hypothyroidism, which refers to a state in which patients are asymptomatic, in other words they do not exhibit any of the characteristic underactive thyroid symptoms. They may have a normal amount of the circulating thyroid hormone and the only abnormality is that blood test show an increased level of TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone). This implies that the pituitary gland is working extra hard to maintain a normal circulating thyroid hormone level and that the thyroid gland requires extra stimulation by the pituitary to produce adequate hormones. In the majority of these cases it is just a matter of time before the condition progresses and underactive thyroid symptoms are exhibited; especially if the TSH has already risen above a certain level. No one really knows why underactive thyroid symptoms in women are more common than men, although it is possibly due to the interplay between a woman's reproductive hormones – especially, estrogen and progesterone – and their thyroid hormones. Many women experience underactive or hypothyroid problems during perimenopause, just as some do during adolescence or pregnancy, which are the two other stages in their lives of tremendous hormonal flux.
Underactive Thyroid Symptoms in Women and Pregnancy
|Pregnancy can be a major factor in the higher risk of underactive thyroid symptoms in women. Pregnancy affects the thyroid in a number of ways and poses a high risk for the condition, both during the pregnancy and following birth. One reason may be that the requirement for iodine is higher in both the mother and the unborn baby at this time. Changes in reproductive hormones also cause changes in thyroid hormone levels. In addition, some women develop antibodies to their own thyroid during pregnancy, causing a condition known as postpartum autoimmune, or sub-acute, thyroiditis. This occurs in up to 10 percent of pregnant women and tends to develop 4 to 12 months after delivery. It is a limited condition and nearly always clears up. However, it does pose a risk for the development of more permanent underactive thyroid symptoms in women later on and could even lead to Hashimoto's disease.|
Hashimoto's disease or thyroiditis occurs when the body forms antibodies that fight against its own thyroid gland cells, creating long term underactive thyroid symptoms. As these are times of tremendous hormonal change, it makes sense that an imbalance in female hormones would strongly impact thyroid function. In fact, underactive thyroid symptoms in women are often seen as part of a larger pattern of long-term hormonal imbalance. Unfortunately, conventional medicine typically views the thyroid in isolation from the other systems of the body. And quite frankly, the success rate of conventional medical treatment for underactive thyroid problems is far from encouraging. In so many cases of underactive thyroid symptoms in women, the patients steadily spiral downward, feeling worse as the years go by and finding themselves on an ever-growing list of medications.
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