Are symptoms of hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid gland) in women being ignored or misdiagnosed?
It may come as a great surprise to learn that, owing to their common and diverse nature, underactive thyroid symptoms in women are far more common than many people realize. For this reason an underactive thyroid may go untreated for longer than is safe. Some statistics claim that as many as one in eight women in America between the ages of 35 and 65 are affected by thyroid problems and for women over 65, this number rises to one in five (that’s 20 percent). Nevertheless, one thing is certain about hypothyroidism and that is that the risk of underactive thyroid symptoms in women is 10 times greater than in men. Furthermore, because underactive thyroid symptoms are so similar to those of menopause, there is an even greater chance that these hypothyroidism symptoms in women will be missed by their GP; for obvious reason, this becomes more of a concern for women exhibiting underactive thyroid symptoms over the age of 50.
Subclinical Underactive Thyroid Symptoms in Women
The term hypothyroidism refers to the metabolic state that exists as a result of a reduction in the amount of thyroid hormones in the body. As such, it can be classified in 3 different ways:
- Primary or Secondary Hypothyroidism – based upon the degree of endocrine aberration (that is the degree to which normal glandular function has failed)
- Congenital or Acquired – based upon the time that the patient has had thyroid related problems
- Clinical or Subclinical – based upon the severity of the condition; overt or mild, respectively
In many cases women may suffer from subclinical hypothyroidism, which refers to a state in which patients are asymptomatic, in other words they do not exhibit any of the characteristic underactive thyroid symptoms. They may have a normal amount of the circulating thyroid hormone and the only abnormality is that blood test show an increased level of TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone). This implies that the pituitary gland is working extra hard to maintain a normal circulating thyroid hormone level and that the thyroid gland requires extra stimulation by the pituitary to produce adequate hormones. In the majority of these cases it is just a matter of time before the condition progresses and underactive thyroid symptoms are exhibited; especially if the TSH has already risen above a certain level. No one really knows why underactive thyroid symptoms in women are more common than men, although it is possibly due to the interplay between a woman’s reproductive hormones – especially, estrogen and progesterone – and their thyroid hormones. Many women experience underactive or hypothyroid problems during perimenopause, just as some do during adolescence or pregnancy, which are the two other stages in their lives of tremendous hormonal flux.