The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland situated at the base of the neck just under the larynx. It produces thyroid hormone, which controls the functioning of many mechanisms in the body like metabolism, body temperature, heart rate, and more.
Any problem in the thyroid gland can cause changes in the production of thyroid hormones (either too little or too much) in the body.
In the article, we will explore everything you should know about hypothyroidism in females: what it is, what its symptoms are, and how to treat it.
What is hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid, is a condition in which the thyroid gland doesn’t make enough thyroid hormone. Without enough thyroid hormone, many of our body’s functions start to slow down.
This condition can affect people of all ages and genders but is more likely to affect women than men. In women, it mostly develops after menopause rather than in earlier stages of life.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Hypothyroidism In Females?
Symptoms of hypothyroidism develop slowly, and most of them become noticeable only after a few months or even years. Symptoms may also vary among individuals. But the common symptoms are:
- Fatigue: Being tired or fatigued is the most common symptom noticed in women with hypothyroidism. Many of them feel severely exhausted and find it difficult to carry out their daily activities, even after getting enough sleep.
- Weight gain: Thyroid hormones regulate body weight and metabolism. But most women with hypothyroidism experience unexpected weight gain despite following a good diet and exercise routine. This is because there is a significant reduction in metabolism, and instead of burning calories, the body saves them as fat.
- Constipation: Constipation is often reported by people with hypothyroidism. A slower metabolism rate is the main reason for experiencing constipation. This can cause problems in the movement of food through the gut, and the functioning of the stomach, intestines, and colon.
- Trouble tolerating cold: Burning calories produces heat in the body. But in hypothyroidism, as the metabolic rate is low, the body generates less heat. This is the reason why people with an underactive thyroid become more sensitive to cold. These people feel cold even when they are in a warm room during the summer.
- Muscle and joint pain: Hypothyroidism can make the body switch from metabolism to catabolism, where the body breaks down the body tissues rather than food for energy. This weakens muscles and causes aches. Around 80% of people suffering from hypothyroidism experience muscle cramps.
- Dry skin and hair: Hair follicles and skin cells, like most cells, are regulated by thyroid hormone. Low thyroid levels can affect the regeneration of hair follicles, leading to hair loss. Likewise, underactive thyroid damage the normal skin cell renewal cycle. As a result, old, damaged skin accumulates over the skin, making it dry and flaky.
- Irregular and heavy menstrual periods: Thyroid hormones are linked to the hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle and the working of the uterus and ovaries. This accounts for why women with hypothyroidism have menstrual irregularities and heavy bleeding.
- Sexual dysfunction: This is an issue of losing interest in sexual activities. Up to 50% of women with hypothyroidism experience sexual dysfunction. This is due to the relationship between the thyroid and sex hormones.
- Mood and memory changes: The incidence of anxiety, depression, impaired memory, lack of concentration, and low moods is common among people with untreated hypothyroidism. Experts suggest these changes are due to metabolic changes in the brain, as thyroid hormones are required for the functioning of the brain.
- Infertility: Women who are trying to conceive may experience difficulties getting pregnant and may go through miscarriages due to hyperthyroidism.
Hypothyroidism Diagnosis And Treatment
Diagnosing hypothyroidism is difficult considering its similarities with other health conditions. However, if you have any of these symptoms it is better to see a doctor.
Hypothyroidism is mainly diagnosed through a blood test called the thyroid stimulating hormone test (TSH). If hypothyroidism is left untreated or not adequately treated, it can lead to serious physical and mental health issues. Hypothyroidism can be easily treated with proper medication and diet.
Hypothyroidism is a very common condition that occurs when the thyroid glands don’t produce enough thyroid hormones.
These hormones are essential for the functioning of many body parts. Fatigue, weight gain, irregular periods, and muscle pain are some of the common symptoms observed in women with hypothyroidism. However, it can be managed with regular medications.