Can Menopause Affect the Thyroid? Looking Deeper Into Your Symptoms for Answers

Woman wondering if menopause can affect the thyroid.
Things began to change for Anita around the age of 42. As a busy mother of young children and a full-time engineer, she was used to feeling tired. But lately, the fatigue has been extraordinary. She was battling a bit of unexplained weight gain that she could not seem to shake, and now her periods had become irregular and unpredictable. Thinking these could be early signs of the signs of her transition to menopause, she contacted her doctor. After a physical exam and diagnostic lab tests, she was surprised to learn that the cause of her symptoms was an underactive thyroid gland.  Though women know they will likely experience menopause sometime between the ages of 40 and 58, thyroid disease is usually not on the radar. But thyroid disease is 5-8 times more prevalent in women than men, and 1 in 8 women will experience it during their lifetime. Significantly, the likelihood of developing a thyroid condition increases with age, leaving many women to wonder, “can menopause affect the thyroid?”

Understanding Thyroid Disorders

Thyroid hormones have a significant impact on your health throughout your life. They affect your metabolism and growth and can influence almost every cell in your body. Yet, an estimated 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease—and up to 60% of them may be unaware they have it.

Common Thyroid Diseases

Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid produces too little thyroid hormone. Hyperthyroidism means it produces too much. Though not all causes of these thyroid disorders are fully understood, known causes include autoimmune diseases, cancerous or benign growths, certain medications, and radiation therapy to the head or neck. 

Thyroid Cancer

The American Cancer Society estimates that approximately 44,000 new cases of thyroid cancer will be diagnosed this year—about 75% of them in women. Though this is usually a very survivable type of cancer, early detection and treatment are vital. Typically, this treatment involves surgery or radioactive iodine treatment, which removes or inactivates the thyroid gland. The resulting hypothyroidism will require oral thyroid hormone supplementation for the remainder of the person’s lifetime.  The chart below shows how thyroid disorders stack up against the transition to menopause in terms of symptoms, long-term concerns, and treatment. 
Hypothyroidism Hyperthyroidism Perimenopause & Menopause
Symptoms
  • Cold intolerance
  • Mood swings
  • Palpitations
  • Weight gain
  • Forgetfulness
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Fatigue
  • Low energy
  • Dry skin
  • Hot flashes/sweating
  • Mood swings
  • Palpitations
  • Insomnia
  • Weight loss
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Fatigue
  • Thinning skin and hair
  • Hot flashes/night sweats/chills
  • Mood swings
  • Palpitations
  • Insomnia
  • Weight gain
  • Forgetfulness
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Fatigue
  • Low energy
  • Dry skin
  • Vaginal dryness
Long-term Concerns
  • Elevated cholesterol
  • Depression 
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Osteoporosis
  • Cardiac arrhythmias
  • Eye problems
  • Osteoporosis
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Genitourinary syndrome
Treatment Thyroid Hormone Replacement Medication or removal of the thyroid Hormone Replacement Therapy
The severity of thyroid symptoms and menopause symptoms can both vary drastically.

How Can Menopause Affect the Thyroid?

Good thyroid function is essential for healthy aging and longevity. Since thyroid disorders are more common in women and increase with age, many women will deal with them during their postmenopausal years. The overlap in symptoms and timing means that getting an accurate diagnosis may be challenging without comprehensive testing. But is there a relationship between menopause and the thyroid beyond timing and symptoms? Can menopause affect the thyroid? Do thyroid conditions affect menopause? The answer to all of these questions is yes. Thyroid hormones and ovarian hormones are closely interrelated throughout the reproductive years, and this connection continues into the menopause transition. A 2021 study of more than 2500 46-year-old women found that thyroid dysfunction was associated with a slightly advanced stage of menopause. There is also a correlation between thyroid disorders and premature or early menopause, and some evidence suggests that the severity of menopausal symptoms may be related to thyroid status. A 2020 study, for example, established a connection between thyroid dysfunction and nervousness in perimenopausal and postmenopausal women. Additionally, some of the treatments for menopause symptoms may affect thyroid function. These complex factors make endocrine monitoring especially important during and after the menopausal transition. While there is no consensus on screening perimenopausal or postmenopausal women for thyroid disorders, hormone testing allows you to better understand the source of your symptoms and ensure you are getting the right treatment. 

Treatment Considerations

With complex and interwoven symptoms, the treatment of thyroid disorders during and after the menopause transition, the treatment of thyroid disorders in perimenopausal and postmenopausal women must be undertaken with care. Some treatment considerations include:
  • Women with hypothyroidism who are receiving hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may need more thyroid hormone due to increased levels of thyroid-binding globulin.
  • Treatment for co-occurring thyroid disorders may improve some menopausal symptoms, potentially affecting your menopause treatment plan.
  • Thyroid hormones may affect the severity of depression symptoms in menopausal women and the efficacy of antidepressant therapy.
  • Thyroid hormones may be used to enhance depression treatment during times of hormonal change.
Any thyroid treatment should be personalized and carefully monitored to ensure that symptoms are resolved and that long-term health risks are minimized.

Starting Your Wellness Journey

By seeking the guidance of a hormone health specialist when symptoms arise, you can get deeper insight into your hormones and determine if estrogen, progesterone, or thyroid hormones are involved. Your doctor will then design a custom treatment plan that works for your lifestyle. With the right support, you can be proactive about your future wellness and find lasting relief from your symptoms.
Can menopause affect the thyroid? What is causing your symptoms? What is the best treatment? The doctors in the EVEXIAS Health Solutions network can help you find answers. Contact us to learn more about our innovative treatment approach.
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