Symptoms of Menopause: Could Your Thyroid Be the Cause?
While many women of a certain age who experience symptoms such as dry skin, moodiness,
Why the Confusion?
There are several reasons why symptoms of hypothyroidism might be identified as symptoms of menopause:
- There is a great deal of overlap between the symptoms of hypothyroidism and those of perimenopause.
Perimenopause and hypothyroidism often occur in women of very similar age ranges:
- Perimenopause may begin as early as age 35 or 40; symptoms can last up until menopause at age 45-50.
- Hypothyroidism affects 1 out of 8 women aged 35-65 years old, and one 1 out of 5 women over the age of 65.
- The symptoms of hypothyroidism may become more pronounced due to the hormonal changes occurring during perimenopause.
Furthermore, undiagnosed thyroid problems are a common problem. In comparison to men, women are significantly more likely to have thyroid problems. And since the risk of developing thyroid disease increases with increasing age, elderly women have a particularly high risk for such disorders. The majority of post-menopausal women with thyroid disorders will have either no or very subtle symptoms and suffer from a condition known as subclinical thyroid disease. The majority of these women will have an underactive thyroid condition (hypothyroidism).
Is Treating Hypothyroidism Important?
Most patients with symptomatic hypothyroidism will get treatment to help reduce symptoms. But for women that have low thryoid levels but do not have symptoms, the answer is not so clear. Some researchers believe that hypothyroidism, particularly when it is subclinical (not dramatically impacting a woman’s quality of life), should be carefully monitored, but not necessarily treated. This was the conclusion of a study that was published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. In this study, the researchers evaluated a variety of quality-of-life and blood lipid parameters in 37 women with subclinical hypothyroidism who were randomly assigned to receive either placebo or thyroid replacement therapy. The group receiving thyroid replacement showed no significant clinical improvement in quality of life or serum lipid parameters, when compared to the group receiving only placebo.
On the other hand, there are those that believe not treating subclinical hypothyroidism increases a woman’s risk of several serious complications, including decreased heart function, increased risk of blood vessel disease, and
The Bottom Line
If you are experiencing symptoms of hypothyroidism—such as fatigue, memory loss,
If you are found to have hypothyroidism, rest assured that treatment for hypothyroidism is also relatively simple and generally very effective. A synthetic thyroid hormone called
American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists
American Medical Women’s Association
Canadian Institute for Health
Thyroid Foundation of Canada
Hak AE, et al. Subclinical hypothyroidism is an independent risk factor for atherosclerosis and myocardial infarction in elderly women: The Rotterdam Study. Ann Intern Med. 2000;132:270-278.
Ibay AD, Bascelli LM, Nashelsky J. Management of subclinical hypothyroidism. Am Fam Physician. 2005;71(9):1763-4. Available at: http://www.aafp.org/afp/20050501/fpin.html . Accessed August 8, 2005.
Jaeschke R, Guyatt G, Gerstein H, et al. Does treatment with L-thyroxine influence health status in middle-aged and older adults with subclinical hypothyroidism? J Gen Intern Med. 1996;11:744-749.
Meier C. TSH-controlled L-thyroxine therapy reduces cholesterol levels and clinical symptoms in subclinical hypothyroidism. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2001;86:4860-4866.
Monzani F, Bello VD, Caraccio N, et al. Effect of levothyroxine on cardiac function and structure in sublinical hypothyroidism: a double blind placebo-controlled study. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2001;86:1110-1115.
Morocco M, Kloss RT. Subclinical hypothyroidism in women: Who to treat. Disease-A-Month. 48:659-70.
Rodondi N, Newman AB, Vittinghoff E, et al. Subclinical hypothyroidism and the risk of heart failure, other cardiovascular events, and death. Arch Intern Med. 2005 Nov 28;165(21):2460-6.
Schindler AE. Thyroid function and postmenopause. Gynecol Endocrinol. 2003;17:79-85.
Last reviewed November 2010 by
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Copyright © 2007 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.