An under-active thyroid can produce several symptoms in women. Brittle and dry hair, and nails, menstrual irregularities, excessive tiredness, hair loss, and increased sensitivity to cold, can be the signs that your thyroid gland is not working properly. Here’s some more information about this condition and its symptoms.
Women can experience a myriad of health problems, when the thyroid gland is not functioning properly. Thyroid is a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland, that is located at the base of the neck, just below the Adam’s apple. Thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) are the hormones produced by this gland, which are responsible for regulating almost all aspects of metabolism. The secretion of these hormones by the thyroid gland is controlled by the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus.
The hypothalamus first signals the pituitary gland to release the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH or thyrotropin), which in turn, induces the thyroid gland to release T3 and T4 hormones. An under-active thyroid gland cannot make enough of T3 and T4 hormones, which can have an adverse effect on metabolism. An underproduction of thyroid hormones can produce a wide range of symptoms in women. Women have a greater risk for developing hypothyroidism and it has been observed that, they are four times more likely to develop an under-active thyroid gland, as compared to men. Further, the risk increases with age. The incidence of hypothyroidism or an under-active thyroid gland, is more among women older than 50 years.
|Symptoms of an Under-active Thyroid Gland
|In the initial stage of hypothyroidism, women may not observe any symptom, or experience some vague symptoms, like tiredness and depression, which they may attribute to aging. The symptoms of hypothyroidism usually develop slowly over a period of time. Basically, the symptoms are produced by a slowdown in the rate of metabolism, due to a low level of thyroid hormones. A few of the most common under-active thyroid symptoms in women are discussed below.
Changes in heart rate
An enlarged thyroid (Goiter)
Dry and pale skin
Edema or fluid retention
Other Common Symptoms
If the condition remains untreated, then one can experience the following symptoms in the later stage.
Women can sometimes develop hypothyroidism during or after pregnancy. The most commonly observed symptoms for this type of hypothyroidism are:
|Causes of -hypothyroidism
|The most common cause of hypothyroidism is the autoimmune condition, known as, Hashimoto’s disease. In this disease, the tissues of the thyroid gland are attacked and destroyed by the immune system, but what exactly triggers such an immune response is not known accurately. At times, radioactive iodine and other anti-thyroid medications, used for the treatment of hyperthyroidism, can lead to hypothyroidism.
Some other risk factors for an under-active thyroid gland are, receiving radiation therapy for treating cancer of the head and neck, thyroid surgery, a personal or family history of autoimmune diseases, Down syndrome, iodine deficiency, pituitary disorders, and the use of medications like lithium and amiodarone. Some women can develop hypothyroidism during pregnancy, while others can get it after delivery too.
|Diagnosis and Treatment
|The diagnosis typically involves physical examination of the thyroid gland and blood test, to determine the level of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and thyroxine. Hypothyroidism is usually treated with the medicine, levothyroxine, which is a synthetic thyroid hormone. Physicians usually recommend a low dose of this thyroid replacement drug in the initial stage, and observe how well the patient responds. Blood tests are then carried out every 2-3 months, to check the level of TSH hormone, in order to determine the correct dose of levothyroxine.
Once the correct dose is ascertained, blood tests are carried out once in a year to find out whether the dosage needs to be changed. Levothyroxine usually does not cause any side effect, if administered in the correct doses. A low or high dose of levothyroxine can however, cause several side effects. If left untreated, hypothyroidism can lead to several complications, out of which, heart problems, infertility, goiter, and an increased risk for infections, are worth mentioning.
Women with an underactive thyroid gland are more likely to give birth to babies with birth defects. The risk of miscarriage is also more in such women. Early diagnosis and treatment can however, help avoid the complications associated with untreated hypothyroidism. Therefore, it is very important not to neglect the symptoms of an underactive thyroid gland. Symptoms like continuous fatigue, muscle and joint pain, excessively coarse or brittle hair and nails, should be properly evaluated with the help of a physician, in order to ensure prompt diagnosis and treatment of this condition.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be considered as a substitute for professional medical advice.