Thyroid Cancer Risk Female Mind

Do you feel like you’re stuck in low gear? Are you having trouble with weight gain? Fatigue? Anxiety? Or are you cold all the time?

These symptoms were once called “women’s troubles.” Although such problems may be more common in women, the label suggests that these symptoms are more psychological than they are physical in nature. However, they may actually be symptoms of thyroid problems.

Although clear connections have been established between the thyroid and the mind (such as the difficulty many thyroid problem sufferers have with concentration), problems with the thyroid in women are beginning to get more clinical recognition.

Symptoms of Thyroid Problems at Subclinical Levels

You’re twice as likely to have an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) as you are an overactive one (hyperthyroidism), and women have 10 times the risk for hypothyroidism that men do.

While fewer than 2 percent of Americans have clinical levels of hypothyroidism, up to 15 million may have undiagnosed thyroid problems.

One of the main reasons for such a large number of undiagnosed thyroid problems stems from discrepancies in measures used to diagnose hypothyroidism. A common measurement is the level of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) in the blood. The question is how high TSH levels have to be to merit a diagnosis.

The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists recommends treatment for hypothyroidism when TSH levels rise above 3.0. Many American laboratories set the normal TSH levels from 0.5 to 5.5, and diagnose hypothyroidism only when readings go above 5.5 or 6. Many patients report symptoms of hypothyroidism when their numbers are not within the clinical range.

Some healthcare professionals say measurements of both the free T3 and T4 thyroid hormones are needed to give a more complete picture of thyroid health.

Depression, or Symptoms of Thyroid Problems?

Many of the symptoms that reveal problems with the thyroid in women are similar to those presented by other conditions, such as depression and menopause. Common symptoms of an underactive thyroid include:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty losing weight
  • Infertility
  • Hair loss
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Low sex drive
  • Sensitivity to cold.

Many female patients presenting with these symptoms have been told to seek counseling or to take Prozac, only to eventually find relief when their hypothyroidism was treated.

Hypothyroidism and Pregnancy

Although an underactive thyroid is usually more common among women over 50, hypothyroidism can develop after pregnancy in 5 to 8 percent of new mothers. A few factors contribute to this trend:

  • The developing fetus and the expecting mother have higher iodine requirements.
  • Thyroid hormone levels change in the presence of reproductive hormones.
  • Some women develop antibodies to their own thyroid during pregnancy.

An underactive thyroid due to pregnancy is generally a temporary condition and may not require treatment. Seek professional guidance if you have questions about possible hypothyroid symptoms.

Resources

Dranov, P. (2004). When this gland goes haywire, watch out. Retrieved March 15, 2010, from Mental Health Web site: http://www.mentalhealth.com/mag1/p51-thyr.html.

University of Maryland Medical Center staff. 2010. Hypothyroidism – Risk factors. Retrieved March 15, 2010, from University of Maryland Medical Center Web site: http://www.umm.edu/patiented/articles/what_symptoms _of_hypothyroidism_000038_3.htm.

Yadegaran, J. (2010). Thyroid disease may create a life of ups and downs. Retrieved March 15, 2010 from the Daily News Web site http://www.dailynews.com/health/ci_14648718.