Hypothyroidism is a condition where the thyroid is underactive and does not produce enough hormones to regulate metabolism and other major bodily functions. Here are some ways hypothyroidism affects women, who are more likely to suffer from it than men.
Around 4.6 percent of the U.S. population, 12 and older, has hypothyroidism. Women are 10 times more likely to have hypothyroidism than men, the risk increasing after age 34. Because symptoms are gradual and can be confused with many other conditions, most women are left misdiagnosed or undiagnosed, and the hypothyroidism is left untreated.
Hypothyroidism can occur because of many reasons during and after pregnancy. Studies have shown proper iodine intake is crucial to thyroid functioning, and in the case of a pregnancy, the requirements for iodine intake are high. Fluctuations in hormones can also cause the thyroid to malfunction, and in some women antibodies are developed that attack the thyroid post-delivery, leading to an increased risk of a permanent form of the condition.
20 million women in the U.S. suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their life. Complications of eating disorders include hypothyroidism, among others. Women are much more likely to develop eating disorders than men, putting women at greater risk for hypothyroidism.
Because symptoms of hypothyroidism come gradually and are also symptoms of aging or stress, it can often be mistaken for menopause or some other mild condition. If you have a genetic disposition to hypothyroidism or have any risk factors, it’s important to get tested to get the treatment you need.
Low levels of thyroid hormone can interfere with ovulation which may impair fertility. Also if you have hypothyroidism and become pregnant, normal fetal development and carrying the pregnancy to term may be at risk so be sure to consult your doctor about all stages of your fertility with hypothyroidism.
Hypothyroidism is most common in women and especially if they are over 60. As many of the symptoms can be confused with aging, it’s important to get all tests possible including testing for hypothyroidism.
Yumhee Park is a former content producer for HealthCentral.com.