Symptoms of hyperthyroidism in women appear when the thyroid gland starts to produce hormones excessively. The extra hormones cause the afflicted woman to lose weight, feel nervous, and become very moody, depressed and exhausted. Those who suffer from hyperthyroidism may likewise have warm and dry skin, poor memory, hand tremors and irregular menstrual periods or even the total absence of menstrual flow. Indeed, an overactive thyroid gland could lead to serious health problems.
The symptoms of hyperthyroidism in women are treated based on the underlying cause. It is aimed at providing relief from the accompanying symptoms and normalizing the hormone production in the thyroid gland. Complications will less likely occur if the condition is detected early and treated promptly.
How important is it to have a well-functioning thyroid gland?
A normal thyroid gland is important in regulating the body’s metabolism. Aside from converting the calories into energy usable by the body, the hormones produced by the thyroid gland are also vital for regulating body temperature as well as for growth and development, especially during infancy. The hormones produced by this butterfly-shaped organ on the front side of the neck are controlled by a thyroid-stimulating hormone produced by the pituitary gland which is likewise managed by the part of the brain called hypothalamus.
How do symptoms of hyperthyroidism in women develop?
Studies showed that hyperthyroidism affects more women than men, especially older women. In fact, an overactive thyroid gland is quite common before and after menopause. However, there has been a rising trend of hyperthyroidism among younger women, specifically after pregnancy. The likelihood of developing symptoms of hyperthyroidism in women is also high among smokers. Furthermore, those who have a family history of Grave’s disease will likely suffer from hyperthyroidism at a younger age.
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism develop because the excessive amounts of thyroid hormones, particularly the thyroxine, causes the body’s metabolic processes to speed up which has dreadful effects on the different organs of the body.
An overactive thyroid gland could be attributed to a range of factors such as:
- Autoimmune disorder
Grave’s disease, for instance, is an autoimmune disorder frequently associated with hyperthyroidism. The thyroid gland not only produces too much hormones, but is enlarged as well.
In thyroiditis, the thyroid gland is damaged causing huge amounts of hormones to leak out. This could be due to an infection or the production of antibodies that attack the gland itself.
- Thyroid nodules
Non-cancerous growths may develop in the gland causing it to produce high levels of thyroxine which is dangerous to the body.
Hyperthyroidism can also occur as a result of taking medications or foods with high iodine content.
What are the symptoms of hyperthyroidism in women?
A woman with an overactive thyroid gland will experience varying symptoms depending on her age, amount of hormone present and duration of the disorder. Moreover, the symptoms of hyperthyroidism develop slowly, especially among older women.
- Unexplained weight loss
Too much thyroid hormones speed up the body’s ability to burn calories even if there is an increase in appetite.
- Psychological symptoms
These include nervousness, irritability, mood swings and anxiety. Hyperthyroidism also causes difficulty in concentration.
- Chronic fatigue
Affected women may feel exhausted all the time due to problems in having a restful sleep and insomnia.
- Heightened cardiac activity
Everything in the body accelerates when there is an excess in thyroid hormones. The heart, for one, will beat so fast which would eventually lead to high blood pressure. This will make the woman susceptible to heart attack and stroke.
- Increased muscle activity and bowel movement
Muscle activity will also amplify as excess thyroxine irritates the nerves resulting in hand tremors and muscle weakness. Bowel movement is also affected and becomes more frequent and loose.
This condition is characterized by an enlarged neck because the thyroid gland is swollen. Goiter causes breathing and swallowing difficulties, as if something is jammed in the throat.
- Irregular menstruation
While everything seems to speed up with too much thyroid hormone, the menstrual cycle on the other hand becomes scanty and irregular or stops altogether. An overactive thyroid gland could even lead to infertility or difficulties in delivering a baby to term.
In the case of Grave’s disease, the affected woman will exhibit additional symptoms, such as tearing and redness of the eyes as well as protruding eyeballs.
How does the early discovery of hyperthyroidism affect the prognosis?
The early detection of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism in women is crucial in achieving a better prognosis. Of course, this highly depends on reason behind the overactive thyroid gland, duration and age of the affected individual. However, the disorder will become severe if nothing is done to address the issue. Besides, Grave’s disease makes early detection and timely treatment critical because the disease will worsen which will greatly affect the overall quality of life of the patient. Visual inspection of the neck may reveal a swollen thyroid, but diagnostic tests and thyroid scan are still required to provide a definitive diagnosis.