The thyroid is a small gland that lies in the front of the throat, which produces hormones that impact virtually every single tissue and organ in the body. And menopause, of course, is the change that occurs in a woman’s life when female hormone production declines, menstruation stops, and she is no longer able to bear children.
But, when the thyroid gland produces too much or too little thyroid hormone, it can cause several symptoms in a woman’s body that are quite similar to the symptoms of menopause. This can make it difficult for a woman to determine the underlying cause of health issues or body changes that she may be having as she gets older.
In this article, Austin, TX thyroid specialist Dr. Ruthie Harper discusses the link between thyroid conditions and perimenopause/ menopause, including how each affects the other, and what a woman can do to restore optimal hormone balance.
Estrogen and Thyroid Conditions
It can often be challenging to tell apart the symptoms of an underactive or overactive thyroid and menopause, because they are very similar.
Symptoms of an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) can include: fatigue, dry skin, weight gain, mood swings, mental fogginess, thinning hair, and more. That sounds a lot like many of the classic symptoms of menopause, doesn’t it?
And an overactive thyroid – or hyperthyroidism – can also produce similar symptoms to menopause, such as: hot flashes, heat intolerance, rapid or irregular heartbeat, and trouble sleeping.
Almost a decade ago this relationship began to be explored. In 2011 a clinical study published in the Journal of Thyroid Research reported that there exists strong evidence that estrogen may have direct effects on thyroid cells. So, leading up to menopause (“perimenopause”), and after menopause, when estrogen levels fall significantly, it makes sense that thyroid levels would be affected.
Is It Thyroid, Menopause or Both?
The transition to menopause typically begins between the ages of 45 to 55 years old. But thyroid disease can begin at any age.
Generally, hypothyroid problems are significantly more common in women of childbearing age. While hyperthyroidism is more commonly found in perimenopausal and menopausal women. This is believed to be because of the relationship between thyroid function and estrogen, which is the primary female sex hormone.
But a woman experiencing any of the symptoms listed above should never just assume that age-related changes in her body are attributable only to menopause or perimenopause.
The only definitive method to determine if troublesome symptoms are the result of a thyroid imbalance or menopause is through diagnostic blood testing, performed by a hormone expert such as Dr. Ruthie Harper in Austin, TX.
Why Diagnosing Thyroid Issues Matters
While many women try to just “ride out” the symptoms of perimenopause, ignoring underlying thyroid problems can dramatically increase the risk of complications that are associated with menopause. For example, during menopause, women are at a much greater risk of developing osteoporosis that can lead to debilitating bone fractures. But an overactive thyroid can significantly increase the risk of osteoporosis.
Another example is the risk of cardiovascular disease which increases in women during menopause. When a thyroid condition co-exists with menopause it increases the risk of dangerous heart disease.
In other words, thyroid problems may interact with menopause to increase the likelihood of developing a more serious disease or other complications.
Testing for Thyroid vs. Menopause
Austin, TX hormone and thyroid expert Dr. Ruthie Harper can perform tests to definitively diagnose whether your symptoms are the result of menopause, or whether you have an underlying thyroid disorder.
Both menopause and an underactive thyroid can be diagnosed with a thorough panel of blood tests, including:
- Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) – raised levels can indicate menopause.
- Luteinizing hormone (LH) – persistently raised levels also indicate menopause.
- Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) – a high level can indicate an underactive thyroid.
- T3 and T4 – Dr. Harper can identify other thyroid conditions.
- Thyroid antibody testing – may indicate Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
- Dr. Harper also tests for Total T4, Free T4, Free T3, and Reverse T3, which are often ignored or not understood by doctors who are not thyroid experts
Treating Menopause and Thyroid Conditions
If testing reveals that a woman’s symptoms are due to her “change of life” Dr. Harper can prescribe 100% natural, safe and effective bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) to help reduce the symptoms associated with perimenopause.
Similarly, if a patient’s blood work reveals that thyroid problems are at play, Dr. Harper can offer the best thyroid treatments. She has been named one of the top 10 best thyroid doctors in the state of Texas and has a record of successful treatments for thyroid dysfunction using the most advanced, natural and integrative healthcare techniques.
It is important to take a holistic and integrative approach to both thyroid disorders and menopause because of how closely the two conditions often interact, and how easy it is for their symptoms to be confused. Thyroid and menopause hormone therapy should be part of a comprehensive program to get the entire body back in balance, so that you can lose weight, have more energy, improve hair & skin, sleep better, and continue to live your best life!
Treating thyroid disfunction and menopause comprehensively and simultaneously also ensure that you are not putting yourself at risk for life threating medical conditions, such as osteoporosis or heart disease.
Menopause & Thyroid Treatment – Austin, TX
With accurate diagnosis and comprehensive, integrative treatment and regulation of thyroid and menopause hormones, the outlook for patients with underlying thyroid disorders is excellent.
But the relationship between thyroid and menopause is quite complicated and requires an experienced and holistic expert like Dr. Ruthie Harper to be effectively diagnosed and treated.
If you live in the greater Austin, TX area, schedule a consultation today and take the first step toward getting your body and your life back in balance!