Whether you are in your 20s or 40s, thyroid problems can affect anytime. The thyroid gland’s functions have a lot to do with the reproductive system of a woman. According to the US National Library of Medicine, thyroid hormones are essential for the proper functioning of a woman’s reproductive system. They are crucial because they modulate the metabolism and help in the development of uterine, ovarian and placental tissues. Fertility issues apart, some also believe that thyroid disorders can be the reason behind early menopause. That’s the time when women don’t stock sanitary pads or tampons or menstrual cups as they stop menstruating. Let’s find out if there is a link between thyroid disorders and early menopause or not.
Health Shots reached out to Dr Vaishali Joshi, Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at Kokilaben Ambani Hospital, Mumbai, and Dr Sweta Budyal, Consultant Endocrinologist and Diabetologist, Fortis Hospital, Mulund, to explore the possible link between thyroid disorders and menopause.
What are thyroid disorders?
Thyroid is an endocrine gland in the front of windpipe that is situated in the neck. Dr Joshi explains that it secretes a very essential hormone called thyroid in the body which controls metabolism of our body. Any dysfunction of the gland function are called thyroid disorders.
The disorders of the thyroid gland include following conditions –
• Hypothyroidism (decreased production of thyroid hormones)
• Hyperthyroidism (excessive production of thyroid hormones)
• Goitre (enlargement of thyroid gland)
• Thyroid nodules (benign or cancerous tumors of Thyroid)
• Ectopic thyroid gland (abnormal location of gland).
What is the link between thyroid disorder and early menopause?
Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism might disrupt the menstrual cycle and normal functioning of the reproductive system. But does that mean menopause can arrive early? Early menopause is when a woman stops menstruating before the age of 40 or when she is in her early 40s.
According to Dr Joshi, it’s not usual for a thyroid disorder to cause early menopause. Dr Budyal shares that a majority of the thyroid disorders that we see today are due to autoimmunity where the immune system causes damage to the organ. This process can often affect ovaries as well. So, premature menopause is seen more commonly in women with thyroid disorders than in general population. But a direct link between the two is not yet established.
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How to know the difference between thyroid and menopause symptoms?
Some women pass off thyroid problems for menopause. You can’t blame them for getting confused between hyperthyroidism and menopause. That’s because both hyperthyroidism as well as menopause might present with similar symptoms such as increased sweating, heat intolerance, irritability and irregular periods, says Dr Budyal. Worry not, as these can be easily differentiated by doing a simple and widely available thyroid function test on a blood sample.
Causes of early menopause
If you have a family history of early menopause then you do have a higher chance of experiencing the same. Other causes are:
• Chemotherapy or radiotherapy for the treatment of cancer.
• Removal of ovaries
• Hysterectomy (uterus removal) surgery
• Viral infections like mumps.
Disorders of pituitary gland can also sometimes mimic premature menopause.
Thyroid disorder or not, premature menopause is known to cause many health problems like osteoporosis, poor quality of life and increased risk of heart problems. The good news is that women with premature menopause have treatment options including Hormone Replacement Therapy. All you have to do is identify it soon so that treatment can make a difference.