Life StyleThyroid disorders and women's health: Understanding, Managing, and Thriving

Thyroid disorders and women’s health: Understanding, Managing, and Thriving

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In our daily lives, how we choose to live has a direct influence on our health, especially our dietary choices. One condition significantly affected by lifestyle is thyroid, a butterfly-shaped, hormone-producing gland at the front of the neck. This small but mighty gland regulates numerous metabolic processes throughout the body. Disturbances in its function can create a domino effect, leading to significant health issues. While thyroid disorders affect both genders, they exhibit a higher prevalence in women, with approximately one in eight women expected to develop a thyroid condition in her lifetime.

Thyroid disorders can be categorized into two main types: structural and functional. The former includes enlargement of the thyroid gland (goiter) and the formation of nodules, which can be either benign or, less commonly, cancerous. Functional disorders, which affect the larger population, encompass hyperthyroidism (over activity) and hypothyroidism (under activity) of the thyroid gland. Emphasizing the gender-specific nuances of thyroid disorders, Dr. Samer El Kaissi, Division Chair of Endocrinology at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi said, “Thyroid disorders are notably more common in women due to various factors, and understanding their impact on women’s health is crucial for effective management. Some of the contributing factors include hormonal influence during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause; autoimmune thyroid disorders such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis; family history and stress.”

Impact of Thyroid on Women’s reproductive system

Thyroid disorders extend beyond physical health, affecting reproductive health and conditions such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). It is a common observation that PCOS is a multi-organ endocrine disorder. Therefore, it is not unusual to find other endocrine diseases such as hypothyroidism, obesity and diabetes associated with PCOS.

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“Thyroid disorders can disrupt menstrual cycles, ovulation, and increase the risk of miscarriage. In women with PCOS, thyroid dysfunction can exacerbate symptoms, necessitating comprehensive management strategies,” said Dr. El Kaissi.

Identifying symptoms and regular monitoring

Common symptoms for these disorders include fatigue, weight fluctuations, mood swings, hair loss, and changes in skin texture. Early identification of these symptoms is crucial for effective management with regular monitoring, particularly for women.
Regular monitoring involves checking hormone levels and adjusting treatment plans as necessary. Thyroid ultrasound is useful for monitoring structural changes of the thyroid gland.

Meanwhile, lifestyle modifications such as focusing on a balanced diet, regular exercise, and stress management play a vital role in supporting thyroid health.

Dr. Samer El Kaissi, is the Department Chair in the Medical Subspecialties Institute at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.
Comprehensive treatment

Thyroid disorders, if left untreated, can lead to serious health consequences. Untreated hypothyroidism may result in heart disease, altered mental state, and, rarely, fatalities. Conversely, untreated hyperthyroidism can cause osteoporosis, eye problems, and heart issues. Effective management of thyroid disorders involves tailored treatment approaches, including thyroid hormone replacement therapy for hypothyroidism and antithyroid medications for hyperthyroidism. In severe cases, radioiodine therapy or surgery may be necessary.

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