Thyroid and Menopause: Is there a connection?

Women seem to get all the ‘fun’ conditions: menstruation, pregnancy and all the complications therein, and then, just as you are getting used to your body’s funny little ways, it all changes again with the onset of menopause, hot flushes, hormonal fluctuations and changes to appetite and weight plus metabolic changes. Women are also more likely to suffer from thyroid malfunction than men, and this can be more serious when the onset of thyroid disease in the woman’s forties and fifties is chalked up to the change and potentially goes untreated for too long. But is there any connection between thyroid issues and the menopause?

Is It Menopause Or Thyroid Disease?

Sometimes thyroid disease can present itself in female patients towards their late forties or fifties – precisely when doctors and nurses will be looking for the first signs of the menopause to make themselves known. And unfortunately, some of the symptoms of thyroid disease are the same as menopausal signs, such as:

  • Hyperthyroid inability to regulate body temperature and menopausal hot flushes
  • Hypothyroid weight gain and menopausal ‘middle-aged spread’
  • Hyperthyroid sleeplessness and irritability and menopausal ‘mood swings’

… and so on! You know your own body best, and if you are convinced that there is more going on that the end of your fertile years, you should persist in asking for a thyroid function test to set your mind at rest or begin treatment to chase away those pre-menopausal symptoms!

Menopause and Existing Thyroid Disease

Many patients with thyroid issues have found that they need to increase their dosage of artificial thyroid hormone (such asLiothyronine T3 here) once the onset of menopause becomes noticeable. Their current dose will become less efficacious and thyroid symptoms will recur, so it is important to keep yourself aware of your menstrual cycle and note any changes that occur. If you are concerned at all about new or recurrent symptoms, make a doctor’s appointment and if the doctor doesn’t mention the possibility of the menopause altering your medicine’s effectiveness, you should not be shy in raising your questions – unfortunately, with some medical professionals, female medical issues are still something of an afterthought and they might need a little reminder!

Can Menopause Cause Thyroid Disease?

While menopause does not make a perfectly functioning thyroid suddenly fail, this question is not as silly as it might seem. Studies in mice have found that female reproductive systems can have an impact on the effects and production of thyroid stimulating hormone in the body. This hormone is the body’s signal to

start creating T3 and T4 hormones to be used as needed – and the lack of estrogen in the system, such as pre-menopausal women have in good quantities, can mute the signal in some way, so less thyroid hormone than needed is produced.

Is there a connection between the thyroid and menopause? The answer, as so often with medical questions is far from clearcut and very much depends on the individual. But a connection between menopause and thyroid issues should never be dismissed out of hand – it is always worth chasing your medical team for answers if you are at all worried.

 

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