Written by Wendi Stitzer, RN, BSN, CMSRN
Have you ever gone to see your primary care provider and explained that you were doing everything you could to lose weight but it just didn’t seem to help?
That you were tired and fatigued?
Or maybe you’re just cold all of the time?
Did your primary care physician then test your thyroid??
Were you left wondering why?
These are some of the most common symptoms of hypothyroidism.
WHAT ARE SYMPTOMS OF HYPOTHYROIDISM?
Hypothyroidism is one of those disease processes that is more prevalent in women than men, up to five to eight times more common in fact. There are many clinical manifestations besides the previously mentioned such as weight gain, fatigue, and cold intolerance. Some others include constipation, impaired memory or slowed mental processing, depression, menstrual irregularities, infertility, bradycardia, hypertension, and muscle cramps or weakness. Although many of these symptoms seem like simple inconveniences, the others mentioned can lead to more serious issues like bradycardia or hypertension which may lead to cardiac problems. There are metabolic issues to consider that are often caused by hypothyroidism as well including high cholesterol, anemia, elevated creatinine kinase (which detects muscle damage), and low sodium.
HYPOTHYROIDISM DETECTION AND TREATMENT
Fortunately, thyroid dysfunction can generally be detected through blood tests. A high serum thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and a low serum free thyroxine (T4) generally characterize primary hypothyroidism.
Hypothyroidism can be treated with medication and is generally controllable.
Low thyroid function is not the only issue that we as women have to contend with…
WHAT ARE SYMPTOMS OF HYPERTHYROIDISM?
Hyperthyroidism is also more common in women than men, actually a 5:1 ratio. Some of the common clusters of symptoms that make up overt hyperthyroidism include anxiety, weakness, palpitations, tremors, heat intolerance with increased perspiration, emotional liability and weight loss despite an increased appetite. Isolated symptoms that should still be evaluated include unexplained weight loss, menstrual disorders, new onset of atrial fibrillation, and myopathy. There are other things that can suggest the possibility of hyperthyroidism that include heart failure, dyspnea, hypercalcemia, and loss of glycemic control in diabetic patients. The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is an autoimmune disorder called Graves’ disease.
HYPERTHYROIDISM DETECTION AND TREATMENT
Once again, a blood test can give a diagnosis of thyroid dysfunction. A low serum TSH with high T3 and T4 serum levels are indicative of hyperthyroidism.
Treatment for hyperthyroidism can include antithyroid drugs, radioiodine, or surgery. Many patients prefer surgery due to the potential side effects of the antithyroid drugs and radioiodine. Surgery can rapidly correct hyperthyroidism and with a total thyroidectomy there is nearly a 0% chance of recurrence, however the patient will be on lifelong thyroxine replacement therapy. Patients who have a partial thyroidectomy often can maintain enough thyroid function without having hormone supplementation.
HYPERTHYROIDISM DURING PREGNANCY
One of the important issues that we as women must consider is the potential for hyperthyroidism during pregnancy. While the clinical manifestations are similar to the nonspecific symptoms of pregnancy such as tachycardia or rapid heart rate, heat intolerance, and increased perspiration, there are the other symptoms such as anxiety, weight loss, and hand tremor.
Unfortunately hyperthyroidism in the pregnant woman can have very serious and dire complications. Some of these affect the fetus such as miscarriage, premature labor, stillbirth, and low birth weights. Others affect the mother including preeclampsia and heart failure.
As women and health care consumers, we have a responsibility to be our own advocates. If you are experiencing symptoms that you just can’t account for, it may be time to talk to your primary care provider and have your thyroid function checked. It is a simple blood test that can help your provider rule out potential dysfunction or give a diagnosis and get you on your way to treatment.
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