How Do Hyperthyroidism Symptoms Vary by Gender?

Hyperthyroidism involves the thyroid gland producing too much thyroid hormone. This overproduction can have different effects on men and women.

For example, a woman with hyperthyroidism may have symptoms that include menstruation and pregnancy, while men may experience sexual dysfunction. Hyperthyroidism can also cause a wide variety of universal symptoms.

General Symptoms

Hyperthyroidism happens when the thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland in the neck, produces too much of the hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3).

High levels of these hormones can have a wide variety of effects on the body. The individual may experience the following:

  • irritability
  • irritability
  • tiredness
  • changes in mood
  • muscle weakness
  • heat sensitivity
  • difficulty sleeping
  • to sweat
  • hair loss
  • nail changes
  • trembling hands
  • frequent bowel movements or diarrhea
  • unwanted weight loss
  • heartbeat abnormalities
  • difficulty breathing and swallowing

When hyperthyroidism is caused by an underlying autoimmune disorder called Graves’ disease, a person may also experience:

  • eye inflammation
  • eye puffiness
  • a skin condition called pretibial myxedema, which tends to give the lower legs a swollen, lumpy appearance

Hyperthyroidism in Women

Hyperthyroidism is 2 to 10 times more likely to affect women than men, and the risk increases soon after menopause and pregnancy.

Thyroid hormones help regulate the menstrual cycle, and overproduction can cause:

  • interruptions, including irregular or lighter periods
  • difficulties getting pregnant
  • health problems during pregnancy for both the person and the fetus

Pregnancy raises the level of thyroid hormones in the blood, and having hyperthyroidism during pregnancy can lead to:

  • preeclampsia, a potentially serious condition that causes high blood pressure and kidney problems
  • thyroid storm, severe worsening of symptoms of hyperthyroidism
  • early birth
  • A birth weight below 2.2 kg
  • Problems with the baby’s heart, including a faster heart rate, can lead to serious complications
  • pregnancy loss

Additionally, some researchers have found that hyperthyroidism causes decreased libido in women.

Hyperthyroidism in Men

In men, having an overactive thyroid can cause:

  • low sperm count
  • premature ejaculation
  • erectile dysfunction
  • loss of muscle mass
  • breast tissue growth

A 2019 study observed that symptoms related to sexual dysfunction were present in 48-77% of men with the disease. Hyperthyroidism can also lead to low libido in men, although the evidence is mixed.

How to Find Out?

If the doctor suspects hyperthyroidism, he or she will check the person’s medical history and do an exam to check for signs of thyroid enlargement in the neck.

The symptoms of hyperthyroidism are broad and overlap with many other conditions. The increasing prevalence of pregnancy and postmenopause, with significant hormonal changes in both, can make it difficult to distinguish symptoms.

Because of this, instead of relying solely on symptoms, doctors typically run a blood test to check thyroid function. The results reveal the level of thyroid hormones in the blood.

In some cases, additional testing is required. For example, a doctor may order an iodine intake test to determine if Graves’ disease is responsible for a person’s hyperthyroidism.

Treatment

The goal of treatment is to bring thyroid hormone levels back to the normal range and thereby reduce the symptoms of hyperthyroidism.

The specific approach depends on several factors, including the person’s age, the presence of other health conditions, and the severity of symptoms.

Antithyroid drugs such as methimazole reduce the production of thyroid hormones. Doctors usually need to adjust the dosage of these drugs over time. Blood tests are typically done every 2-3 months to ensure the correct dose and the frequency of these tests is reduced to every 6-12 months for long-term therapy.

Doctors may also prescribe other medications. For example, beta blockers can help treat symptoms such as tension and shaky hands.

Antithyroid medications can cause side effects such as low white blood cell count or liver problems.

Another treatment option is radioiodine therapy, which involves taking a capsule or liquid containing radioactive iodine-131. This substance destroys the cells of the thyroid gland without affecting other tissues.

Radioiodine therapy often leads to hypothyroidism, in which thyroid hormone levels are too low. However, this condition is easier to treat than hyperthyroidism.

In cases where other treatments have not worked, the doctor may recommend surgery to remove part or all of the thyroid gland. This procedure is called a thyroidectomy.

When should a doctor be consulted?

Hyperthyroidism can be difficult to detect because its symptoms are so extensive and overlap with many other health problems.

Anyone who suspects they have a thyroid problem should see a doctor right away. Some symptoms include:

  • unexpected changes in weight
  • changes in appearance, such as thinning hair and skin
  • persistent fatigue and mood changes
  • constantly feeling very hot or cold
  • menstruation without pregnancy

Summary

Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid, a gland in the neck, produces too much thyroid hormones. It can cause a wide variety of symptoms, some of which are gender-specific.

This condition is more common in women than men. This can cause problems with menstruation and pregnancy. In men, the disease can affect sexual function and cause breast tissue to grow.

Doctors use a blood test to diagnose hyperthyroidism. A variety of medications and therapies are available that can reduce symptoms and regulate hormone levels.

Source: MedicalNewsToday. How do hyperthyroidism symptoms vary by sex?. 2021

References

  • 6 signs that you need to have your thyroid checked [Blog]. (2017).
  • Cihan, A., et al. (2009). The relationship between premature ejaculation and hyperthyroidism [Abstract].
  • Gabrielson, AT, take meat. (2019). The impact of thyroid disease on sexual dysfunction in men and women [Abstract].
  • Gardner, K. (2014). Pretibial myxoedema.
  • hyperthyroidism (2018).
  • Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid). (2016).
  • Thyroid disease. (2014).
  • What men should know about thyroid disease. (2020).
  • Your guide to hyperthyroidism. (2018).

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