When many think of endocrine disorders, they think of estrogen and testosterone problems.
However, a more common endocrine disorder is abnormal levels of the Thyroid Stimulating Hormone, and the side effects of thyroid disorders can be confusing and easily misdiagnosed.
What is the Thyroid?
The thyroid is a small gland in the neck behind the larynx. Its main functions are to regulate energy production and metabolism throughout the body—everywhere from the heart to the skin. Too much or too little of this hormone can have serious consequences.
Many patients with thyroid disorders experience excessive fatigue, depression, hair loss, unexplained weight gain and sleep problems. However, routine blood test often fail to detect insufficient levels of this hormone in some of these patients. Also, symptoms can vary widely from person to person, making it harder to detect the issue.
Thyroid Disorders in Women
Thyroid disorders can affect both adults and children, but women are more likely to have thyroid disorders than men. This is because the thyroid gland has much to do with a woman’s reproductive system. Insufficient levels of this hormone can greatly affect a woman’s body.
Research shows that a slightly underactive thyroid may affect a woman’s ability to become pregnant. According to a study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, women who have unexplained infertility were nearly twice as likely to have higher levels of this hormone that stimulates the thyroid gland than women who did not conceive due to known issues with their partner’s sperm count.
A reason for this might be that an overactive thyroid can affect ovulation. Thyroid disorders have the potential to prevent an egg from dropping for fertilization. For women with an underactive thyroid, the ovaries are at an increased risk for cysts, which can also prevent ovulation.
Thyroid disorders can also cause puberty and menstruation to occur abnormally early or late and can cause very light or very heavy menstrual periods. It can even cause absent menstrual periods and early onset menopause (near the early 40’s or earlier).
Who’s at Risk?
Women with goiter, anemia or type 1 diabetes are at a greatest risk for developing thyroid issues. Also, women with thyroid problems in the past or who have had radiotherapy affecting the thyroid gland are more likely to develop these issues.
Symptoms of Hypo/Hyperthyroidism
Hypothyroidism, when the thyroid isn’t making enough hormones, can cause one to feel very cold, constipation, muscle weakness, weight gain, pale skin and a slow heart rate, among other symptoms.
Hyperthyroidism, when the thyroid is making too many hormones, can cause weight loss, feeling nervous or anxious, increased sweating, trembling, trouble sleeping and feeling hot, among other symptoms.
If you believe you are at risk for either, visit an endocrinologist to get an examination.
Weekly Health Tips are brought to you by UCF Health, the College of Medicine’s physician practice. Offering primary and specialty care under one roof, UCF Health treats patients age 16 and up in primary care and age 18 and up for specialty care. Most major insurance plans are accepted. Two locations are now open: the original in East Orlando at Quadrangle and University boulevards just blocks from the main UCF campus, and the newest one in Medical City at Narcoossee Road and Tavistock Lakes Boulevard. Information for both facilities can be found at UCFHealth.com, or call (407) 266-DOCS to schedule an appointment.
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