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Endocrinology and Metabolism

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thyroid_womanThyroid Problems Affect Fertility and Metabolism in Women

We may not mention Thyroid gland as often as diet and pregnancy issues, on our daily discussions, although thyroid gland is a major component of the endocrine system. This giant system needs chapters to be covered, but we chose Thyroid gland due to its major role. So where is it located and how does it look?

Thyroid Disease Complex to Diagnose, Difficult to Correct

Thyroid gland is a small gland, weighs 10 to 30 grams, located in the front of the neck below Adams apple. The gland has right and left lobe connected to each other by thyroid tissues known as the isthmus, or the gland which lies under and is controlled by the pituitary gland.

Why is it so important? The thyroid gland takes iodine from our food using it to produce thyroid hormones T4 (Thyroxin) and T3 (Triiodothyronine) that in turn controls metabolism which is basically the conversion of food and other substances into energy and byproducts.   This function aids in digestion. Imbalances of those hormones can affect fertility and metabolism directly.

The insufficiently low production of thyroid hormones forms a condition called Hypothyroidism. Women diagnosed with hypothyroidism suffer from one of more of the symptoms mentioned below:

  • Depression
  • Dry skin
  • Fatigue
  • Elevated prolactine
  • Weight gain
  • Muscle cramps
  • Irregular menses

    In some cases no symptoms exhibit. Many cases of hypothyroidism had been associated with increased prolactine hormone, a contributing factor in infertility. Blood tests can indicate hormonal imbalances. Pregnant women with hypothyroidism have a higher risk of miscarriage and their child has lower intellectual potential, however in other cases some women develop hypothyroidism after pregnancy due to formation of antibodies to their own thyroid, the condition usually resolves alone.  So, how does hypothyroidism (Thyrotoxicosis) affect your metabolism?

    Since thyroid hormones T4 and T3 are essential to aid in balancing metabolism conversion of food and other substances to energy and byproducts, its logical that a decrease in T4 and T3 subsequently decreases and slows metabolism ;thus difficulty in weight loss.

    Hypothyroidism treatment usually is a life time treatment except for few conditions; a form of T4 is prescribed for the majority of patients, its long acting once a day dosage and more stable than T3.  Another condition is Hyperthyroidism. It is defined as an elevation of thyroid hormones above normal .  As in hypothyroidism, one or more of the symptoms may present.

    Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism

    • Nervousness
    • Sensitivity to light
    • Risk of osteoporosis
    • Pounding (abnormal heart beat)
    • Increase of appetite
    • Weight loss
    • InsomniaIncreased heart beat
    • Irregular menses
    • Absence of ovulation
    • Goiter (slightly swollen gland-eye problems)
    • When can hyperthyroidism occur?

      Hyperthyroidism can occur before, during or after pregnancy. It can be also a contributing factor to infertility.  Recently, a measurable link was found between polycystic ovaries and hyperthyroidism which resulted in subsequent infertility problems.  Pregnant woman with hyperthyroidism should be closely observed since they are at high risk of miscarriage, pre-eclampsia or toxic pregnancy and/or premature delivery. In addition, the fetus of a woman suffering from hyperthyroidism is at risk for a number of serious health threats.

      Will hyperthyroidism affect my metabolism?

      The answer is yes.  Patients with hyperthyroidism often have high metabolism, which explains the increase in appetite; yet they are thin due to increased metabolism. The treatment of hyperthyroidism varies from surgical removal, anti-thyroid drugs to radioactive iodine therapy

      Women who are planning to be pregnant should receive blood tests to determine thyroid levels . If you were diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, be certain to followup with your doctor frequently and get adequate medical care to avoid a potential "thyroid storm".  This condition is a life threatening complication which may include anxiety, increased heart beat, fever and extreme weightloss

      Thyroid problems can be troublesome.  Both high and low metabolism disorders require medical oversight and treatment.  The conditions are usually lifelong and require blood tests periodically to monitor.  The effects of medication impact hormonal, weight and other changes.  Both women and men with slow metabolism often benefit from a sound diet and exercise program along with thyroid supplementation.

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