Although most women know the long list of symptoms associated with menopause, one that stumps most is thyroid and menopause. Considering that at the end of 2011 an estimated 50 million women in the United States will have reached menopausal years, or 18% of the total population, it is no wonder there are so many concerns and questions. In this article however, we wanted to address thyroid and the way in which it relates to the change of life so you will have important answers to important questions.
When you consider thyroid and menopause, you have two main issues to consider. First, the symptoms of thyroid disease and menopause are many times almost identical. For this reason, many women will go through menopause also having problems with the thyroid and never even know it. Second, thyroid disease can actually manifest much worse during menopausal years because of change of hormone levels.
As mentioned, millions of women are currently struggling through menopause. However, some are experiencing mysterious symptoms believed related to this phase of life. In fact, these women will take all types of medication, hormone replacement therapy, and natural remedies trying to shake the symptom. Now, if the “mysterious symptom” is actually connected to thyroid and menopause, then no amount of menopausal medication will help.
The problem is that symptoms of thyroid disease are just too close to menopausal symptoms, which is why they are often overlooked. For instance, mood swings, fatigue, insomnia, and depression are often associated with thyroid disease but they are also associated with menopause. What makes this so bad is that studies show just one in four women who have gone to the doctor to talk about menopause symptoms were told they should be tested for thyroid disease. Making matters worse, approximately 35% of all women over the age of 40 never even went to the doctor for menopause, meaning they could be suffering from thyroid instead of or in addition to menopause and not have any idea.
Let us break the thyroid and menopause problem down even further. Menopause usually begins between the ages of 45 and 52, although women can experience symptoms much earlier. With thyroid, symptoms usually show up between ages 35 and 65. With menopause, women would experience specific things like poor memory, exhaustion, mood swings, change in skin and hair, anxiety, sex drive, sleep pattern, heart palpitations, and so on, the same with thyroid disease. As you can see, when it comes to thyroid and menopause, the symptoms are simply too close to call, which is why expert advice is so crucial.
Just as there are similarities, thyroid and menopause have differences as well. As an example, during menopause, symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness would not likely be seen in menopause. On the other hand, with thyroid, you might experience neck pain, edema of the arms and legs, loss of eyebrow or eyelash hair, visual disturbances, and extreme weight change, all symptoms not associated with the change of life. As far as testing for thyroid versus menopause, this is so important. For menopause, you can talk to your doctor who will likely conduct what is called a Follicle Stimulating Hormone or FSH test. This test helps determine the estrogen levels, which will then identify menopause or not. For thyroid, the normal test is called a Thyroid Stimulating Hormone test or TSH. Although further testing is typically required, this first step will give the doctor a good indication whether you have thyroid disease or not.
As far as thyroid symptoms worsening during menopause, this too is important to understand. What happens is that thyroid hormones thrive in a very, complex hormonal environment, which involves the pituitary and adrenal glands, pancreas, and ovaries. The problem is that understanding how all of these work together is still unknown. However, many times a woman will visit her gynecologist, followed by her endocrinologist, and then finally, her therapist trying to find out why she feels the ways she does. Since the combination of thyroid and menopause seem to make everything worse, it is essential that thyroid be checked.
Keep in mind that thyroid problems can also lead to peri-menopause in younger women because it is related to the reproductive system in two ways. First, thyroid hormones help to regulate metabolism that is believed to help burn off calories. In truth, metabolism is the activity of the cell meaning different cells of the body such as bone, ovarian tissue, and brain all have activity. Second, thyroid hormones are similar to certain metabolites of estrogen and progesterone, and serves as receptor sites for thyroid uptake, which can be blocked when there or facilitated by these two hormones.
Remember, when it comes to thyroid and menopause, it is all about perfect balance. Obviously, symptoms in both cases in both cases are not pleasant but you have multiple choices to help with thyroid and with menopause. However, the key is to work with a reputable doctor in the field. If you begin to notice symptoms that could be either thyroid or menopause, we recommend you start first with your primary care physician or gynecologist to determine if what you are going through is menopause. If so but you notice other symptoms not typically associated with menopause, and then you should have your thyroid checked.
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