Our thyroids produce hormones that are required to help metabolize nutrients used to regulate our energy levels, and for many other functions in our bodies.
This small gland, located in the base of our neck, uses iodine from the food we eat to produce two main hormones, triiodothyronine and thyroxine. Triiodothyronine is also called T3. Thyroxine is also known as T4.
These hormones must be kept in balance to regulate vital body functions such as heart rate, breathing rate, muscle strength, temperature and body weight.
Hypothyroidism occurs when not enough of these hormones are being secreted . Hyperthyroidism occurs when there is too much.
According to the American Thyroid Association, “women are five to eight times more likely than men to have thyroid problems,” and they estimate that 20 million Americans have some type of thyroid disease, while only up to 60 percent are aware of it.
Women are more likely to develop thyroid problems for a number of reasons. Everydayhealth.com states that women of childbearing age are more likely to develop autoimmune diseases.
Both Graves’ disease, which causes hyperthyroidism, and Hashimoto's thyroiditis, which causes hypothyroidism, are autoimmune diseases.
In addition, women may develop thyroid disease during and after pregnancy, or if they have a genetic problem such as Turner syndrome.
Many symptoms of thyroid disease are similar in men and women.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- Low energy and fatigue
- Difficulty thinking clearly
- Dry and thinning hair
- Joint and muscle pain
Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism include:
- Hair loss
- Hand tremor
Women may be more likely to complain of these symptoms and seek treatment while men may hold off, try to ignore them or think they are due to other reasons.
Men, thanks to the media, are very used to thinking that a low testosterone level may be the cause of their symptoms of erectile dysfunction, low energy levels, balding, low sex drive and other problems, Raphael Kellman, M.D., a holistic internal medicine doctor, explained in a U.S. News Health article.
However, hypothyroidism can be the actual cause of these health problems. He says that men may receive treatment for low T, while their thyroid issues are entirely missed.
He goes on to say that studies have shown that low thyroid hormone levels can lead to lower amounts of sex hormone-binding globulin.
“SHBG is important because it carries testosterone through the body, making it available to cells and tissues. Without it, there will be a decrease in the amount of usable testosterone.”
This could also lead to decreased fertility as cells in the testicles may become affected. This can lead to a decreased quantity of sperm.
Another small study reported in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism also showed that having either hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism could contribute to erectile dysfunction.
“ED was more prevalent in patients with hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, compared with controls,” according to the study. After treatment, there was a significant rise towards normal on the sexual health survey scores used to evaluate the men’s ED.
Thyroid disease is diagnosed based on physical exam, descriptions of symptoms by the person and through lab work to determine hormone levels.
If you or a male friend are experiencing any symptoms, make an appointment with a doctor or endocrinologist so he can determine whether your symptoms could be due to a thyroid imbalance.
1) Thyroid Gland, How it Functions, Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism and Hypothyroidism. Endocrineweb.com. Retrieved Jan. 12, 2016.
2) GENERAL INFORMATION/PRESS ROOM. American Thyroid Association. Retrieved Jan. 12, 2016.
3) Low Thyroid in Men: Not Just a Woman’s Issue. US News Health. Retrieved Jan. 12, 2016.
4) Krassas, GE et al. Erectile dysfunction in patients with hyper- and hypothyroidism: how common and should we treat? J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2008 May;93(5):1815-9. doi: 10.1210/jc.2007-2259. Epub 2008 Feb 12.
5) Hypothyroidism. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Retrieved Jan. 12, 2016.
6) Understanding Autoimmunity. Everyday Health.com. Retrieved Jan. 12, 2016.
Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s healthcare and quality of care issues.
Edited by Jody SmithRead more in Gender Differences in Health