Menopause and Your Thyroid

What You Should Know

An estimated 20 million. That’s how many people have been diagnosed with a variant of thyroid disease in the U.S. And according to the American Thyroid Association, approximately 60 percent of those individuals aren’t even aware that their thyroid complications might be the cause of other health issues they may be facing – like menopause transition.

Excessive-sweating. Insomnia. Fatigue. Anxiety. These are just some of the underlying symptoms that affect those with thyroid disorders, as well as those who are experiencing perimenopause. One in eight women will develop a thyroid disorder, and women are five to eight times more likely than men to experience thyroid issues. It’s a prevalent issue among women in mid-life, that too often goes undiscussed and undiagnosed. Only 25 percent of those who experience symptoms talk to their doctor about checking their thyroid, while the majority of women assume they’re going through menopause due to their age/life stage.

Hyperthyroidism and Early Onset Menopause

Hyperthyroidism is when the thyroid gland is overactive and there is too much thyroid hormone produced in the body. Menopause transition and hyperthyroidism share many of the same symptoms and it can be difficult to distinguish between the two. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, thyroid disorders can also trigger early onset menopause, which typically refers to the onset of menopause between the ages of 40 – 45.

Black American and Asian Pacific Islander women generally have higher rates of hyperthyroidism, according to the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Unfortunately, too many women experiencing menopause transition and/or hyperthyroidism may find it difficult to find help for their symptoms, because they’re often overlooked or dismissed. Unfortunately, this can have more serious, even life-altering consequences. According to Black America Web, Black Americans “are more likely to have larger tumors that have a less favorable pathology; lower 5-year survival, and higher overall thyroidectomy complication rates.”

Menopause Transition and Hypothyroidism

Another thyroid disorder to be aware of is hypothyroidism, which is experienced when the thyroid is underactive. While those who experience hyperthyroidism produce a high amount of the thyroid hormone, those with hypothyroidism produce a low amount. Hypothyroidism is most commonly experienced by women in mid-life and studies show that it’s more prevalent among White and Asian women. According to the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), hypothyroidism can also mimic conditions associated with menopause transition — including fatigue, forgetfulness, mood swings, weight gain, irregular menstrual cycles, and cold intolerance.

Thyroid Disorders and Menopause: Overlapping Symptoms

The symptoms and conditions associated with hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, and early onset menopause can overlap dramatically.

Symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • Hot flashes
  • Insomnia
  • Lack of menstruation
  • Mood swings
  • Increased/excessive sweating
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Tremor
  • Hair loss
  • Weight gain
  • Fatigue

If you or someone you know is experiencing any signs or symptoms of hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, or early onset menopause, it is always best to consult with a physician (typically, an endocrinologist) for a medical diagnosis and the best treatment plan.

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