Symptoms of Thyroid Problems in Women

Thyroid Disease in Women

Thyroid dysfunction is about five to eight times more common in women compared to men; however many of them are unaware that they have it. This is because women tend to mistake these symptoms for other conditions or may often overlook. For instance, women are more likely to develop thyroid disorders followed by childbirth. Some of the commonly experienced symptoms during this period include depression and fatigue, which are also present in various other thyroid conditions. It has been reported by the American Thyroid Association that more than half of the cases affected by thyroid disorders may be undiagnosed. The thyroid symptoms usually vary depending on a woman’s age, underlying condition and severity of the thyroid condition. Read on to learn the different types and symptoms of thyroid problems that affect women.

Types of Thyroid Diseases                      

The malfunction of thyroid gland can occur due to the following one of three ways:

  1. An overactive thyroid releases too much of TH,resulting in a condition called as hyperthyroidism.
  2. An underactive thyroid can can release too little TH, leading to a condition called hypothyroidism.
  3. Over-growth of thyroid tissue can result in the formation of a small lump (nodule) in the portion part of a gland.
  • Majority of these nodules are benign (harmless tissue growths); however some of these nodules tend to be malignant (cancerous in nature).
  • According to the American Thyroid Association, it has been estimated that about cancerous nodules have relatively low incidence rate as less than 1 in 10 thyroid nodules are cancerous; however, currently, thyroid cancer is the rapidly developing cancer in women.


Hyperthyroidism can commonly occur due to nodules that contain thyroid cells, which produce TH irrespective of the body needs. The condition can also occur during or post-pregnancy due to Graves’ disease. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism can also occur due to thyroiditis, an inflammation of the thyroid gland due to overproduction of TH. Aggressive or over treatment of hypothyroidism with synthetic TH medications can also result in hyperthyroidism symptoms.

In addition to that, an autoimmune condition, Graves’ disease, is the top leading cause of hyperthyroidism affecting more than 85 percent of women with hyperthyroidism. The antibodies produced in Graves’ disease stimulate the thyroid gland resulting in overproduction of TH and significant enlargement of the thyroid gland. The same antibodies tend to invade the skin in front of the lower leg and eye muscle tissue. It is rarely fatal and it is treatable.

Hyperthyroidism is associated with excessive production and release of TH; thus increasing the metabolic rate by speeding up the metabolism. It also promotes weight loss by burning excess of muscle mass for energy rather than targeting store fat in the body. Graves’ hyperthyroidism is commonly associated with ophthalmopathy and dermopathy, which include a wide array of symptoms. The symptoms of hyperthyroidism in women include:

  • Irritability or nervousness
  • fast or irregular heart rate
  • weight loss
  • changes in appetite
  • heat intolerance or increased perspiration
  • muscle weakness
  • sleep disturbances like insomnia
  • more frequent bowel movements
  • trembling hands
  • exophthalmos (bulging eyes)
  • shorter and scantier menstrual flow
  • goiter (enlarged thyroid gland)


Hypothyroidism can either occur spontaneously in women or develop during or post-pregnancy or even following the hyperthyroidism treatment. One can either develop it since birth or due to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease and one of the top leading causes of hypothyroidism in the united nation. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis produces auto-antibodies, which program the immune system to attack and destroy the healthy tissues of the body, especially thyroid gland itself rather than defending against invading bacteria or viruses. This results in damage of the thyroid gland thus, reducing the production of TH.

Hypothyroidism is associated with too little production and release of TH, which slows down the body function and metabolic rate in the body. The common symptoms of hypothyroidism include:

  • general fatigue
  • low body temperature
  • depression
  • dry or itchy skin
  • weight gain
  • puffy hands, face, and feet
  • thin, dry hair or hair loss
  • slow and reduced heart rate
  • constipation
  • poor memory
  • trouble with concentration
  • decreased perception to taste and smell
  • irregular or heavy menstruation
  • hoarseness or husky voice
  • infertility
  • muscle aches
  • goiter (enlarged thyroid gland)
  • high cholesterol

Thyroid nodules

Thyroid nodules are the most common type of thyroid disorder that commonly affect up to 50 percent of women over 50. Clinically, most of these nodules are small (less than 1 centimeter) and can develop more than 5 centimeters. Nodules generally indicate an underlying thyroid condition and hence require further evaluation. Most of these nodules occur as discrete, benign clumps of thyroid cells which do not function normally and have no symptoms. Few nodules can emerge out as simple cysts. It is important to assess these nodules as about less than 10 percent of them turn out to be cancerous. Common symptoms of large nodules include difficulty in swallowing or coughing and compression of the trachea (windpipe).  Overactive nodules can suppress the remaining gland, resulting in hyperthyroidism.