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Thyroid Disease: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatments

Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland at the base of your neck that secretes hormones and controls a number of things throughout your body. It may be a small gland but it can cause big problems for some women.

Women are more likely than men to develop thyroid issues, with 1 in 8 experiencing issues at some point in her lifetime. Thyroid diseases stem from over or under production of thyroid hormones and can sometimes develop slowly.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common thyroid issues.

Hypothyroidism Causes & Symptoms

Hypothyroidism is defined as an under-active thyroid or impaired thyroid function.  The most common cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, a type of autoimmune disorder. Other causes include:

  • treatment of hyperthyroidism
  • postpartum (which tends to be short-term)
  • thyroid surgery
  • radiation therapy to the head and neck
  • other medications (ex. Lithium)

Some risk factors for hypothyroidism include: being a woman older than age 60, autoimmune disease, family history of thyroid disease, receiving radiation to your neck or upper chest, thyroid surgery (partial thyroidectomy), and being pregnant or delivering a baby within the past six months.

Unfortunately, it can be hard to decipher the symptoms of hypothyroidism in its early stages. Over time the symptoms may be come more evident, and the severity will vary from person to person.

The most common symptom is fatigue, with many patients reporting being worn down or excessively sleepy even when they are getting lots of rest. Some additional common symptoms of hypothyroidism include:

  • increased sensitivity to cold
  • constipation
  • dry skin
  • weight gain
  • changes in your periods
  • hair loss

The good news is that treatments are available.  Treatment options for hypothyroidism are Synthroid, Armour Thyroid, and Nature Throid. 

Getting a diagnosis is relatively easy through blood tests. The lab results will determine if you have hypothyroidism and also let your provider find the best dose for your treatment.

Hyperthyroidism Causes & Symptoms

Hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid, is a condition in which your thyroid gland produces too much of the hormone free thyroxine (T4) and/or triiodothyronine (T3).

Causes of hyperthyroidism include:

  • diffuse toxic goiter (Grave’s disease)
  • toxic multinodular goiter
  • toxic adenoma (toxic nodule)
  • excess thyroid medication

Like hypothyroidism discussed above, postpartum hyperthyroidism can occur, but typically goes away after a period of time for many women. 

Hyperthyroidism occurs in 0.2% of pregnancies, with 95% of these cases due to Grave’s disease. Hypothyroidism is more common, complicating 2-10% of pregnancies.

Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:

  • sudden weight loss
  • rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)
  • nervousness, anxiety and irritability, tremors
  • sweating
  • changes in menstrual patterns
  • fatigue
  • fine/brittle hair
  • difficulty sleeping.

Treatments are also available for hyperthyroidism.  One of these treatments is Propylthiouracil (PTU), which is preferred in pregnant patients.

Testing for Thyroid Disease

The recommended testing for thyroid disease is a TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) and then adding a FT4 (free T4) if the TSH is abnormal. A TPO (thyroid peroxidase) antibody test is used to screen for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

If you suspect you may have a thyroid problem, please contact your licensed healthcare provider. Looking for a new OB/GYN? Contact us today!


*** This article is not intended to be medical advice and should not replace the advice of your treating medical professional. ***