If you are female there is more than a 12% chance that you currently are, or at some point in your life will be, suffering from thyroid disease. That’s twice the risk that women face of incurring heart disease in the United States. But what makes thyroid disease even more insidious is that up to 60 percent of women with thyroid disorders are unaware that they are sick!
Because the thyroid influences almost every organ and function of the body, thyroid problems can manifest in a wide variety of seemingly unrelated symptoms: fatigue, inability to lose weight, insomnia, low libido, headaches, body aches, anxiousness, memory issues, and much more. But, as women, because we are used to just “pushing through” these types of problems – continuing to fulfill our duties as a mother, wife, daughter, friend, employee or boss – we often blame these maladies on stress, “that time of the month,” or menopause.
But ignoring thyroid problems can compromise your quality of life in the short term – as well as lead to long-term, permanent health complications if your thyroid disorder remains untreated. And, while Austin, TX thyroid expert Doctor Ruthie Harper knows how incredibly busy you are, a short appointment to get your thyroid checked can lead to improvements in your energy, health, weight and well being that are well worth it now… and for years to come!
In this article, Austin, TX top thyroid doctor, Ruthie Harper, MD, explains some of the most common thyroid diseases that affect women – and explains what you can do to diagnose and treat a thyroid disorder so that you feel better, look better, and live better!
The Varied Symptoms of Women’s Thyroid Disorders
The thyroid is a tiny butterfly-shaped gland in the base of your neck that makes thyroid hormones which travel in the bloodstream to every part of your body. So, symptoms of thyroid dysfunction can show up almost anywhere in the body – from the brain to the bowels.
Additionally, thyroid disease can cause the thyroid to produce too little hormone (hypothyroidism) or too much hormone (hyperthyroidism) – so the symptoms of thyroid disease can be exactly opposite each other in different women. For example, hyper-thyroid disease can make one woman lose her appetite and feel nervous or anxious, while hypo-thyroid disease may make another woman gain weight and feel lethargic or fatigued.
To make matters worse, many doctor’s often fail to recognize that a cluster of unrelated symptoms in a woman may all relate back to a thyroid problem. Typically doctors just treat the symptoms – for example prescribing Ambien to help sleep – and they do not look at the underlying cause.
But with proper, thorough blood testing, Austin TX, women’s thyroid specialist Doctor Ruthie Harper can identify any chronic thyroid issues, so that the root cause of your problems can be addressed, rather than just masking the symptoms.
Most Common Women’s Thyroid Diseases
Postpartum thyroiditis is a condition in which there is inflammation of the thyroid after childbirth. While this disorder affects up to 10% of women in the first 4 months after they have given birth, it is often written off as the “baby blues” by doctors – and so it often goes undiagnosed. Postpartum thyroiditis can cause fatigue, mood swings and even sadness – much like postpartum depression.
Postpartum thyroiditis will often return to normal within 12 to 18 months, but it should be treated before that. To begin with, early treatment helps ensure that a new mother has the energy and clear mental state to enjoy her newborn’s first year of life. Additionally, untreated postpartum thyroiditis increases a woman’s risk for developing permanent hypothyroidism within 5 to 10 years.
Hypothyroidism in Women
Because the symptoms of hypothyroidism (producing too little thyroid hormone) develop slowly, often over several years, women often mistake this condition for “normal aging” or menopause. But, while we all may slow down a little bit as we get older, normal, healthy aging should not be marked by excessive fatigue, weight gain, brain fog or sluggishness!
Having your thyroid levels thoroughly tested to identify any deficiencies can be the first step to restoring energy, vitality and quality to your life at any age. Additionally, since hypothyroidism can cause weight gain, belly fat, hair loss and drying skin, treating hypothyroidism as early as possible can also help a woman remain youthful looking!
Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy at Doctor Ruthie Harper, MD in Austin, TX can restore missing thyroid amounts of thyroid hormones. This therapy is safe, effective and natural – without the side-effects of synthetic hormones.
Hyperthyroidism in Women
Like hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism (production of too much thyroid hormone) also comes on gradually over time. And, many of the signs of hyperthyroidism can be similar to the symptoms of menopause, including: feeling hot; menstrual irregularity; mood swings; and more. So, many women and their doctors also mistake hyperthyroidism for menopause or signs of aging.
However, it is essential to diagnose hyperthyroidism as early as possible, as it raises a woman’s risk for osteoporosis – which can lead to debilitating and life-threatening bone fractures. Hyperthyroidism is also associated with high LDL or “bad” cholesterol, which can raise a woman’s risk of heart disease.
Inflammatory Thyroiditis in Women
Thyroiditis occurs when the body’s immune system makes antibodies that attack the thyroid, causing inflammation. Hashimoto’s Disease is the most common type of thyroiditis in women. Ascertaining the underlying cause of the inflammation and properly treating it is the first step in remedying the many symptoms of thyroiditis.
If the underlying causes of thyroiditis is an autoimmune condition, early diagnosis is important because underlying autoimmunity can lead to a second or third autoimmune condition such as type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, or inflammation of the heart, brain or liver.
Thyroid Nodules & Thyroid Cancer in Women
Thyroid nodules – swelling in one section of the thyroid gland – may be solid or filled with fluid or blood. These nodules may occur individually or in clusters. Many thyroid nodules cause no symptoms, other than a lump or bum in the neck – and thankfully the majority of thyroid nodules are non-cancerous.
But some thyroid nodules, if left untreated, will eventually interfere with either swallowing, breathing or both. And, since three times as many women get thyroid cancer as men – and the number of women with thyroid cancer is increasing and is expected to double – thyroid nodules should never be ignored.
Diagnosing & Treating Women’s Thyroid Disease
The good news is that Doctor Ruthie Harper in Austin, TX understands and offers in-depth testing for thyroid disorders in women. She will test all of your thyroid hormone levels (TSH, Total T4, Free T4, Free T3, and Reverse T3), combined with other diagnostic and nutritional testing, to provide a comprehensive and successful approach to diagnosing, treating, managing, and even reversing your thyroid disease.
Many other doctors just prescribe a “standard dose” of the synthetic, lab-created hormone Synthroid. But Dr. Harper will customize an individualized treatment plan just for you – often utilizing safe and natural bioidentical hormone replacement – based on your unique and specific thyroid levels and other hormone deficiencies.
Woman’s Thyroid Doctor | Austin, TX
If you are a woman living in the greater Austin, TX area, who would like to improve her quality of life, schedule a thyroid consultation with Dr. Harper today. She will get to the root of your low energy, sleep problems, weight gain, sexual concerns, or other health issues – and help you restore balance and wellbeing to your body and your life!