Thyroid Disorders in Women

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According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, women are eight times more likely to experience thyroid disease than men. Women with thyroid diseases have various symptoms that range in intensity and frequency. The best treatment for a disorder of the thyroid depends on the underlying cause of the condition.


Thyroid

Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland at the base of your neck in front of your windpipe. The thyroid gland is responsible for making two hormones. Thyroxine, also called T4, and triiodothyronine, called T3, work together to regulate the rate of your heartbeat and control the speed at which your body burns calories. The pituitary gland controls the actions of your thyroid gland by signaling the need for hormone production.

Disorders

Thyroid hormone surpluses and deficiencies, hyper- and hypothyroidism, are caused by over- and underactive thyroid glands. Women with a thyroid problem often have underlying disorders that cause the thyroid gland to function improperly. These diseases include type 1 diabetes, cysts on the thyroid gland and cancer. Thyroid disorders can lead to difficulties in getting pregnant, as well as cause early labor and fast fetal heartbeats.

Causes of Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is a condition that results in an underproduction of thyroid hormones. A local inflammation of your thyroid gland is the most common cause of hypothyroidism. Commonly called Hashimoto’s disease, this disorder causes your immune system to mistake the cells in your thyroid as threatening invaders, damaging your thyroid and limiting its ability to produce hormones. Other causes of hypothyroidism include radiation treatment of certain cancers and treatment of hyperthyroidism.

Causes of Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism is a condition in which your thyroid produces excessive amounts of hormones. Too little iron in your diet can also cause hypothyroidism. Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disorder that can cause this disorder. One sign of Graves’ disease is bulging eyes. Taking too much thyroid hormone medication to treat hypothyroidism may also lead to hyperthyroidism.

Symptoms

Signs of hypothyroidism in women include a change in menstrual periods, weight gain, weakness, loss of sex drive, hair loss and brittle nails. Hyperthyroidism may cause weight loss, nervousness, rapid heartbeat, frequent bowel movements and tremors. An enlarged thyroid gland can cause trouble breathing and swallowing. Complications of hyperthyroidism can cause a condition known as a thyroid storm. This serious disorder can lead to fever, confusion, seizures and coma.

Treatments

Medical tests such as blood tests, radioactive iodine uptake tests, thyroid scans, ultrasounds and biopsies can provide valuable information regarding your thyroid disease. Your doctor will determine the best treatment plan based on the cause and nature of your disorder. Treatments for hypothyroidism may include levothyroxine and liothyronine, two types of synthetic hormones that can help replace your missing T3 and T4 hormones. Treatments for hyperthyroidism include surgery to remove most of your thyroid gland, radioiodine to destroy thyroid cells and antithyroid medicines to block the production of thyroid hormones. Often, your first line of treatment may include waiting and watching to see if your condition progresses or resolves on its own.

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