Women and Thyroid Problems

Many an unhappy dieter watching a slim friend wolf down a “gooey dessert” has blamed her own weight gain on her sluggish metabolism.

She just may be right. Some studies suggest that one out of every 10 women can expect to suffer some problem with the thyroid gland —- the controller of your body’s weight and its efficiency in burning calories. Women are 4 to 5 times more likely than men to suffer thyroid trouble, and even a small thyroid malfunction can spark a wide variety of distressing symptoms.

The thyroid can affect your mood, so women suffering emotional troubles should consider checking with their physicians to rule out thryoid trouble before heading straight to the therapist’s couch.

An early symptom of thyroid trouble can be rapid weight gain or loss. When the thyroid is overactive, it can cause weight loss – which has led some women who consider themselves overweight to abuse thyroid medication in hopes of losing weight quickly.

But too much thyroid hormone also increases the appetite, often so intensely that patients gain weight despite their high speed metabolism.

Over active thyroids can cause such physical symptoms as heat intolerance, constipation and rapid heart beat, as well as nervousness and anxiety. If the classic symptoms of bulging eyes and the swollen thyroid lump in the throat are absent, only a blood screen will indicate if a woman’s anxiousness stems from her thyroid, not from her head.

Underactive thyroids can be just as emotionally debilitating. Low thyroid levels can cause or increase depression, and undiagnosed thyroid trouble can keep a depressed woman from responding to mood elevating drugs. Classic symptoms of underactive thyroids include brittle hair, facial puffiness and, in severe cases, heart failure.

Because thyroid disease mimics so many other health problems, physicians routinely use special, highly sensitive blood tests to diagnose malfunction of this very important gland.