The thyroid is a gland in your neck that makes hormones and releases them into your bloodstream. It’s just below your voice box and it’s shaped like a butterfly with two large lobes on the sides and narrower tissue connecting them. All glands are small organs that are responsible for making substances like hormones or saliva or tears, and these substances have a specific job for your body. The hormones the thyroid makes are called thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3).

The hormones the thyroid produces affect essentially every tissue in your body and affect the body’s growth and development, metabolism, heart, digestive system, brain and nerve development, muscle control and your mood.

More than 12% of people in the U.S. will have a problem with their thyroid, and over half of people with thyroid problems are unaware of their condition. It’s also much more likely for women to develop problems with their thyroid (nearly 8 times as likely) — one in eight women have a thyroid condition.

Types of Thyroid Conditions:


Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid is underactive, or it’s not producing enough hormones. There are lots of different causes for hypothyroidism, but the most common is a genetic autoimmune disorder called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis — with this disease, the body mistakes thyroid cells for invaders (like a virus or bacteria) and will attack them. This type of thyroid condition is common for patients who have had radiation treatment or had parts of their thyroid surgically removed.

There are no common symptoms patients with hypothyroidism share because lots of patients experience no symptoms or the symptoms can easily be because of another condition the patient has. However, some common symptoms are:

  • Fatigue
  • Increased sensitivity to cold or heat
  • Weight gain
  • Hoarseness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Elevated blood cholesterol level
  • Muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness
  • Heavier than normal or irregular menstrual periods
  • Thinning hair
  • Enlarged thyroid gland (goiter)

Providers will commonly diagnose hypothyroidism after analyzing results from a regular blood test and physical.

Hypothyroidism cannot be cured but it can be controlled and managed. Providers will prescribe you hormone replacement treatment, most commonly through pills, that will supplement your body with the same hormones your thyroid is not producing enough of.


Hyperthyroidism is the opposite of hypothyroidism, and it happens when the thyroid is producing too much of its hormones. Like all thyroid issues, women are more likely to develop hyperthyroidism. The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is Grave’s Disease, which is when antibodies in the blood stimulate the thyroid and make it produce more hormones than it needs to.

Symptoms of hyperthyroidism are:

  • Unintentional weight loss, even when your appetite and food intake stay the same or increase
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Increased appetite
  • Nervousness, anxiety, and irritability
  • Tremor — usually a fine trembling in your hands and fingers
  • Sweating
  • Changes in menstrual patterns
  • Increased sensitivity to heat
  • Changes in bowel patterns, especially more frequent bowel movements
  • An enlarged thyroid gland (goiter), which may appear as a swelling at the base of your neck
  • Fatigue, muscle weakness

When Grave’s Disease is the cause of hyperthyroidism, it can first appear when a woman is pregnant. Even if you have already been diagnosed with Grave’s before pregnancy, the severity of it and your symptoms can fluctuate between trimesters and after the baby is born. Managing your hyperthyroidism is really important during pregnancy because it can affect the baby’s health and, if untreated, can result in miscarriages or premature birth. However, if your hyperthyroidism is mild, it likely won’t affect the pregnancy.

Treatments for hyperthyroidism can be different based on the cause, but there are several different medications someone can take to reduce the amount of hormones the thyroid produces. There are antithyroid drugs that will slowly reduce symptoms by controlling the amount of hormones the thyroid produces without damaging the gland. There is also iodine treatment, which will shrink the thyroid and ultimately get it to produce less hormones. A provider might also prescribe beta blockers, which doesn’t directly treat the thyroid, but can help treat symptoms related to the body’s blood and heart function like heart palpitations and tremors.

Thyroid Problems with Women:

Because women are so much more likely to develop thyroid issues than men, there are key differences in the effects that the thyroid has on a woman’s development and reproduction system. The thyroid can impact puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause.


Thyroid problems can make puberty and menstruation start unusually early or late, and it affect the heaviness or lightness of the flow. It can also cause an irregular cycle with irregular breaks between periods or missed periods.


Some thyroid conditions can affect ovulation, making it difficult for some women to get pregnant. For women with hypothyroidism, it’s common to develop ovarian cysts. The thyroid can have an impact on the development of a fetus during pregnancy and affect the mother postpartum. Some women only experience thyroid disorders during or after experiencing pregnancy, and it can cause the baby to not develop properly or give the mother symptoms like intense morning sickness.


Thyroid conditions can also cause early menopause, with some women experiencing it in their 30s, however some symptoms of hypothyroidism (underactive) can be confused for early menopause. These symptoms are hot flashes, irregular or absent periods, lack of sleep, and mood swings. If the thyroid is properly treated, early menopause can be avoided.

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