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Thyroid Symptoms vs. Menopause

  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

Thyroid Symptoms vs Menopause Related Articles

What Is the Difference Between Thyroid Symptoms and Menopause Symptoms?

  • Problems related to thyroid function usually deal with the thyroid producing too much (hyperthyroidism) or too little thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism). Menopause is a normal reduction in estrogen and testosterone production resulting in the loss of normal monthly periods that occurs in all women as they age.
  • Men, women and children may develop thyroid problems (although women are more affected than men), but menopause only occurs in females (usually begins at about age 48 to 55 unless induced by surgical removal of the ovaries).
  • Symptoms that are shared by menopause and hypothyroidism may include menstrual changes, fatigue, weight gain and weakness. Symptoms shared by menopause and hyperthyroidism may include heat intolerance and/or hot flashes, a rapid heart rate (from thyroid storm, a rare but severe and potentially life – threatening complication of hyperthyroidism), feeling of warmth, sweating and fatigue.
  • Menopause may also produce other symptoms such as vaginal dryness, painful intercourse, mood swings, urinary incontinence, breast changes, thinning of the skin, bone loss and in some women, loss of interest in sex; these symptoms are not common to individuals with thyroid symptoms.
  • Hyperthyroidism is most commonly caused by the following: antibodies in the blood that stimulate the thyroid to grow or become enlarged, thyroid nodule or lump that secretes excess thyroid hormone, certain drugs and/or any inflammatory process in the thyroid gland - hypothyroidism is most commonly caused by any condition that causes or interferes with the production of thyroid hormone. Menopause, in contrast, is a normal body function of all females; it is not considered a disease.
  • Hormone adjustments, either additional thyroid hormone for hypothyroid patients or treatment to reduce thyroid hormone production in hyperthyroid patients, is the hallmark therapy for thyroid problems – similarly, hormone adjustments (for example, estrogen and progesterone) are used to treat some menopause patients.
  • Both thyroid problems and menopause may increase the risk of developing heart attacks.

What Is Thyroid Disease?

Thyroid disease can strike anyone, although many types of thyroid diseases are more common in adult women than in men, children, or teenagers. The specific symptoms of thyroid disease depend upon the exact condition and whether the thyroid gland is under- or over-producing thyroid hormone. In some cases, thyroid disease may not have apparent symptoms.

  • Hyperthyroidism refers to any condition in which there is too much thyroid hormone in the body.
  • It is sometimes referred to as overactive thyroid.
  • Excess thyroid hormone levels can increase metabolism (how energy is used), and increase the risk of other health issues such as
    • heart disease,
    • bone loss, and
    • problems during pregnancy.
  • Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone.
  • Thyroid hormones affect the metabolic processes of the body.
  • Hypothyroidism can be caused by conditions of the thyroid as well as other disease which may indirectly affect the thyroid.
  • Women are affected by hypothyroidism more than men, especially as they age.
  • The incidence of hypothyroidism increases significantly in the elderly.
  • Low thyroid hormone levels decrease metabolism (how energy is used), and increase the risk of other health issues such as heart disease and problems of pregnancy.

What Is Menopause?

  • Menopause is the time when a woman stops having menstrual periods.
  • Many women experience a variety of symptoms as a result of the hormonal changes associated with the transition to menopause. Around the time of menopause, women often lose bone density and their blood cholesterol levels may worsen, increasing their risk of heart disease.
  • Signs and symptoms women experience during this transition include:
    • Vaginal dryness
    • Painful intercourse
    • Mood swings
    • Weight gain
    • Loss of interest in sex (although some women experience an increase in sexual desire)
  • The average age of U.S. women at the time of menopause is 51 years. The most common age range at which women experience menopause is 48-55 years.
  • Premature menopause is defines as menopause occurring in a woman younger than 40 years. About 1% of women experience premature, or early menopause, which can be caused by premature ovarian failure or cancer.
  • Menopause is more likely to occur at a slightly earlier age in women who smoke, have never been pregnant, or live at high altitudes.
  • The hormonal changes associated with menopause actually begin prior to the last menstrual period, during a three to five year period sometimes referred to as the perimenopause. During this transition, women may begin to experience menopausal symptoms even though they are still menstruating.
  • Surgical menopause is menopause induced by the removal of the ovaries. Women who have had surgical menopause often have a sudden and severe onset of the symptoms of menopause.

Thyroid Disease Symptoms vs. Menopause Symptoms

Hypothyroidism Symptoms

If your thyroid hormone levels are too low, you can experience weight gain, feeling cold, mental cloudiness, depression, menstrual changes, fatigue, or fluid retention. Muscle aches, constipation, weakness, thinning hair, and slowing of the pulse rate can occur. Mild hypothyroidism may not produce symptoms. Sometimes the symptoms are so nonspecific that you might not recognize them as signs of hypothyroidism, and the symptoms vary widely among people. You may have symptoms come on slowly and be difficult to recognize; sometimes people with hypothyroidism can be misdiagnosed as having psychological or have other physical conditions. Hashimoto's thyroiditis (an autoimmune condition) is a common cause of hypothyroidism.

What Causes Thyroid Symptoms vs. Menopause?

What Causes Hyperthyroidism?

Common causes of hyperthyroidism in adults include:

  • Diffuse Toxic Goiter (Graves' Disease)
    • Overactivity of the entire thyroid gland caused by antibodies in the blood which stimulate the thyroid to grow and secrete excessive amounts of thyroid hormone
  • Toxic Adenoma ("hot nodule")
    • A dominant thyroid nodule, or lump, is overactive and secretes excess thyroid hormone
  • Toxic Multinodular Goiter (Plummer's disease)
    • One or more nodules or lumps in the thyroid becomes overactive
  • Subacute Thyroiditis
    • Hyperthyroid phase of subacute thyroiditis, caused by viral infection or postpartum inflammatory process
    • Due to thyroid inflammation, excess hormone is released into the blood circulation
    • More than 90% of affected individuals will go back to normal thyroid function without treatment.
  • Drug-Induced Hyperthyroidism
    • Iodine-induced hyperthyroidism: older population, typically in setting of preexisting nontoxic nodular goiter
    • amiodarone (Cordarone)
    • Iodine-containing contrast material used in radiology studies

What Causes Hypothyroidism?

  • Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone.
  • Thyroid hormones affect the metabolic processes of the body.
  • Hypothyroidism can be caused by conditions of the thyroid as well as other disease which may indirectly affect the thyroid.
  • Women are affected by hypothyroidism more than men, especially as they age.
  • The incidence of hypothyroidism increases significantly in the elderly.
  • Low thyroid hormone levels decrease metabolism (how energy is used), and increase the risk of other health issues such as heart disease and problems of pregnancy.

What Causes Menopause?

Yes, every woman will experienced Menopause. Menopause occurs due to a complex series of hormonal changes. Associated with the menopause is a decline in the number of functioning eggs within the ovaries. At the time of birth, most females have about 1 to 3 million eggs, which are gradually lost throughout a woman's life. By the time of a girl's first menstrual period, she has an average of about 400,000 eggs. By the time of menopause, a woman may have fewer than 10,000 eggs. A small percentage of these eggs are lost through normal ovulation (the monthly cycle). Most eggs die off through a process called atresia (the degeneration and subsequent resorption of immature ovarian follicles - fluid filled cysts that contain the eggs).

  • Normally, FSH, or follicle-stimulating hormone (a reproductive hormone), is the substance responsible for the growth of ovarian follicles (eggs) during the first half of a woman's menstrual cycle. As menopause approaches, the remaining eggs become more resistant to FSH, and the ovaries dramatically reduce their production of estrogen.
  • Estrogen affects many parts of the body, including the blood vessels, heart, bone, breasts, uterus, urinary system, skin, and brain. Loss of estrogen is believed to be the cause of many of the symptoms associated with menopause. At the time of menopause, the ovaries also decrease their production of testosterone-a hormone involved in libido, or sexual drive.

What Is the Treatment for Thyroid Disease vs. Menopause?

Thyroid Disease Treatment

Thyroid Medications

Many thyroid medications can be used to treat the various thyroid disorders.This article will review the following therapies:

  • Thyroid hormone replacement to treat hypothyroidism (not enough thyroid hormone) or thyroid cancer
  • Medicines to treat hyperthyroidism (too much thyroid hormone)
  • Other treatments for hyperthyroidism
  • Radioactive iodine treatment

QUESTION

If menopause occurs in a woman younger than ___ years, it is considered to be premature. See Answer

What Is the Prognosis for Menopause and Thyroid Disease?

Thyroid Disease Prognosis

Most people with either hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, with proper diagnosis and treatment, can control their condition with no long-term effects and a normal life expectancy. However, those with undiagnosed disease may progress to hypothyroid coma or thyrotoxic crisis (thyroid storm), with death rates approaching 50%.

Graves' eye disease has been treated with corticosteroid medication, radiotherapy, and surgery with varying success.

Menopause

Menopause is not a disease, but a natural progression that comes with age. Thus "prognosis" isn't an appropriate descriptor of what to expect from menopause. Menopause can present certain health problems, however. Below are situations in which you should see a doctor about issues related to menopause:

  • All perimenopausal and postmenopausal women should see their health care practitioner annually for a full physical exam. This exam should include a breast exam, pelvic exam, and mammogram.
  • Women should learn about the risk factors for heart disease and colon cancer from their health care professional and consider being screened for these diseases.
  • Women who are still menstruating and are sexually active are at risk of becoming pregnant (even if their periods are irregular). Birth control pills containing low doses of estrogen can be useful for perimenopausal women to prevent pregnancy and to relieve perimenopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes.
  • Over-the-counter medications, prescription medications, and lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise, help control hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms, including high cholesterol and bone loss.

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Reviewed on 2/1/2018
References
MedscapeReference.com. Thyroiditis.

Kovacs, P. MD. "Treatment Options for Menopausal Symptoms." Medscape. Updated: Jul 23, 2014.
<https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/828482>
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