Have you been having low energy levels, mood issues or unexplained weight changes? If so, you may be experiencing thyroid problems. Anyone can have thyroid issues, but they are five to eight times more common in women. Thyroid problems in women can affect everyday energy levels, fertility, menstrual cycles or pregnancy. Menopause or pregnancy may also impact thyroid function.
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the neck that makes chemical messengers called thyroid hormones that travel through the bloodstream. They help control the body’s metabolism, which is responsible for digesting food, getting rid of waste and regulating energy levels. If the level of thyroid hormone in the body is off, it can cause a range of symptoms.
It’s common for women to have a thyroid problem without realizing it. Knowing what to look for may help you get the treatment you need to feel like yourself again.
Hypothyroid, or hypothyroidism, happens when the thyroid gland isn’t making enough thyroid hormones. This is also called underactive thyroid. When this occurs, there aren’t enough thyroid hormones in the blood to keep the body functioning as it should.
Symptoms may vary from person to person. Common symptoms of underactive thyroid are:
- A hoarse voice
- Dry skin
- Enlarged thyroid gland
- Irregular or heavy periods
- Hair loss
- Memory problems
- Sensitivity to cold
- Unexplained weight gain
There are many possible causes of hypothyroidism, including:
- Autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases cause the immune system to attack healthy cells and tissue like they are bacteria or viruses. Hashimoto’s disease is the most common autoimmune disorder that causes hypothyroidism.
- Certain medications. Some medications may cause thyroid dysfunction.
- Having too much or too little iodine. Iodine is a mineral that everyone needs to be healthy. It’s found in certain foods and may be in dietary supplements. Having too much or too little can cause thyroid problems.
- Thyroiditis. Thyroiditis is inflammation in the thyroid gland. It’s often caused by an autoimmune disease or an infection.
- Treatments for other thyroid problems. Radiation treatment or surgery to treat other thyroid problems may lead to hypothyroidism.
Hyperthyroid is when there is too much thyroid hormone in the body. It may also be called hyperthyroidism, overactive thyroid or thyrotoxicosis. Symptoms may include:
- Anxiety or restlessness
- Brittle hair
- Enlarged thyroid gland
- Feeling extra hungry
- Frequent bowel movements
- Irregular heartbeat
- Menstrual period changes
- Rapid heart rate
- Sensitivity to heat
- Sleeping problems
- Sweating a lot
- Unexplained weight loss
Hyperthyroidism may be caused by:
- Graves disease. This autoimmune disease is the most common cause of overactive thyroid.
- Medication. Taking too much hypothyroid medication may lead to hyperthyroidism.
- Thyroiditis. This inflammation from autoimmune disease or infection can cause thyroid issues.
Other Thyroid Problems
Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are the most common types of thyroid problems. Others include:
What to Do if You Think You May Have Thyroid Problems
Talk with your primary care provider about your concerns and symptoms. They will likely perform a physical exam and order blood tests. You may also get a referral to a specialist, such as an endocrinologist.
Treatments are available for thyroid problems. Your treatment will vary based on your exact diagnosis. Treatment may include:
- Radiation treatment
Talk with a Professional
Learn more about thyroid problems and what to do about them by talking with your provider. Call (800) 737-7900 or visit your MyChart account to make an appointment at St. Elizabeth Physicians in Northern Kentucky and Southeastern Indiana.