Thyroid Gland and Menstrual Health
The thyroid gland produces two main hormones: thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). Hypothyroidism occurs when a thyroid gland produces insufficient thyroid hormones, causing a digression in bodily functions and therefore, altering the menstrual cycle. Hypothyroidism affects 2% of people and is found mostly in women. This condition may manifest for a number of different reasons, including iodine deficiency, autoimmune diseases, pregnancy, or any sort of damage to the thyroid gland through medicinal side effects or physical injury. The most common source of hypothyroidism is post-partum thyroiditis, which begins 2-6 months after childbirth and lasts up to a year. It affects 7% of all pregnancies, and 1 in 5 people with this condition develop chronic hypothyroidism. Amenorrhea or oligomenorrhea can occur from the increase in thyroid releasing hormone (TRH) in women with hypothyroidism.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism:
- Weight gain
- Irregularity in menstrual cycles
- Dry hair, scalp, and skin
- Irregular bowel movements
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- Bloating, swelling
- Fertility problems and miscarriages
- Hair loss
- Heightened sensitivity to warmth and cold
- Menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes or vaginal dryness
Since this condition is more prevalent in women than men and has a greater impact on the former, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider about it and get tested regularly; especially if pregnancy is on the horizon. Track your bleeding patterns, weight, hair, and skin texture and emotions in order to assess your risk of thyroid complications. Treatments are usually long term and include hormone replacement medication or tackling the source of the problem such as increased iodine intake or autoimmune disease treatments.
An overactive thyroid gland, producing excessive thyroid hormones leads to hyperthyroidism. The lack or irregularity of menstruation is the most common symptom of hyperthyroidism, alongside a decrease in fertility and has much in common with the symptoms of hypothyroidism. An antithyroid drug, like methimazole or propylthiouracil, is preventative and radioactive iodine (RAI) therapy shrinks the thyroid; this treatment is unsafe during pregnancy, however, and can only be used before or after.
Remember that the more severe the thyroid disease, the more irregular the period is likely to be; therefore, having a regular cycle does not cancel the likelihood of a thyroid issue and vice versa. Irregular menstruation is a symptom of a thyroid condition, but not a definite indicator; hence, you must keep an eye out for the other symptoms mentioned in this article along with your cycle.
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