Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism in Women


Hyperthyroidism is associated with numerous signs and symptoms, which vary from person to person. Some patients with overactive thyroid may be completely asymptomatic or present with some, or many of the signs and symptoms based on the severity of the condition. Sometimes, women without hyperthyroidism tend to develop various signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism. Hence, the condition can’t be diagnosed solely on signs and symptoms as it requires physical examination, appropriate lab investigation, and a thorough medical history. This article highlights the symptoms of hyperthyroidism in women.

Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism

Some of the common signs and symptoms that are presented by women with a hyperactive thyroid are as follows:

  • General fatigue
  • hair loss
  • nervousness
  • shortness of breath
  • irritability
  • goiter
  • heart murmur
  • smooth skin
  • osteoporosis
  • increased heat sensitivity
  • generalized itching
  • moist, wet, and red hands
  • muscle weakness
  • sleeping difficulty
  • increased perspiration
  • poor memory
  • irregular, fast, and pounding heartbeat (atrial fibrillation)
  • sudden mood swings
  • inability to concentrate
  • Hand tremors
  • racing heart
  • increased frequency of bowel movements
  • delusions of grandeur
  • swollen fingertips
  • weight loss, despite increase of appetite
  • enlargement of lymph nodes
  • infertility
  • retracted eyelids
  • menstrual problems like amenorrhea (cessation of menstrual period), dysmenorrhea (irregular menstrual cycle), lighter menstrual flow
  • miscarriages
  • abnormally increased or decreased sexual drive or complete loss of libido
  • separation of fingernails from nail beds
  • anxiety
  • nervousness
  • apathy in older women
  • Muscle weakness, especially in the upper arms and thighs,
  • Difficulty in carrying heavy loads and in climbing stairs
  • Thinning hair
  • Rarely, weight gain can occur in some women with hyperthyroidism to the increase of appetite
  • Women affected by Graves’ disease tend to develop swelling within the whites or around the eyes
  • Swollen neck due to goiter
  • Insomnia
  • Overactive urinary bladder
  • Erectile dysfunction (impotence)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Enlarged and tender breasts in men (gynecomastia)
  • Reduced physical capacity
  • Poor memory

Complications of each hyperthyroid symptom in women include:

Weight loss

  • One of the most commonly experienced symptoms in hyperthyroid women is profound weight loss despite normal appetite.
  • Overweight women can initially feel good due to their unintentional weight loss; however, it is a weight loss associated with a range of medical complications as it is caused by the loss of muscle mass rather than fat.
  • Hence, women tend to develop muscle weakness as the body derives energy from the muscle and stores excess fat.
  • Frequent muscle weakness is accompanied with shortness of breath and tiredness thus, impairing one’s ability to perform routine activities, including house core work.

Exophthalmos (retracted eyelids)

  • Women with Graves’ hyperthyroidism usually present with several types of severe manifestations of the eye.
  • Women affected with hyperthyroidism can develop retraction of the upper eyelids, a condition referred to as exophthalmos.
  • Exophthalmos (or eyelid retraction)is characterized with a typical upward movement of the eyeball, thus resulting in a characteristic gaze of the eye.
  • The condition is caused by the excessive distribution of the thyroid hormone in circulating blood, which stimulates the muscular activity of the eyelid opening muscles, thus compromising their function.
  • Exophthalmos is a common sign of hyperthyroidism that occurs irrespective of the cause; which gradually subsides upon controlling the thyroid activity.

Skin and hair manifestations

  • Women affected with hyperthyroidism can develop various types of skin changes irrespective of the cause.
  • Women with Graves’ hyperthyroidism tend to develop several skin manifestations referred to as Graves’ dermopathy.
  • Significant skin manifestations of overactive thyroid include generalized itching, unusually smooth skin over the elbows; warm, red and moist palms; loosening up of finger nails from nail bed.
  •  It has been reported that women of African-American origin tend to develop darkening of the skin; however, the condition is known to resolve with an effective treatment for hyperthyroidism.
  • Affected women can present with hair loss (alopecia), which can be commonly caused by the thyroid hormone imbalance, stress, and increase in male hormones.
  • Hyperthyroidism associated hair loss is temporary as the hair begins to regrow after 3 to 6 months of successful therapy.

Hyperthyroid patients who develop either from muscle weakness or palpitations (a racing and pounding heart) may think that they have developed a heart condition. In hyperthyroid patients with otherwise healthy hearts, palpitations and shortness of breath neither signify the presence of heart disease nor pose a danger to the heart.

Manifestations of female reproductive tract

  • Young women during puberty tend to develop menstrual irregularities like absence of menstrual cycle, irregular or infrequent periods, very little or light menstrual flow.
  • Affected middle age women can either present with complete loss of libido or increased or decreased sexual drive.
  • Child bearing women with overactive thyroid tend to develop infertility problems, recurrent miscarriages, and conception failure, to mention few symptoms.
  • Pregnant women with untreated or undiagnosed hyperthyroidism can present with various pregnancy complications like frequent abortions, premature birth, stillbirth, deliver babies that develop overactive thyroid and so on.