Are thyroid disorders and premature menopause linked?

Whether you’re in your 20s or 40s, thyroid problems can strike at any time. The functions of the thyroid gland have a lot to do with a woman’s reproductive system. According to the US National Library of Medicine, thyroid hormones are essential for the proper functioning of the female reproductive system. They are crucial because they modulate the metabolism and contribute to the development of uterine, ovarian and placental tissues. Besides fertility issues, some also believe that thyroid disorders can be the cause of early menopause. This is when women no longer stock up on sanitary napkins, tampons, or menstrual cups when they stop having their period. Let’s find out whether or not there is a link between thyroid disorders and premature menopause.

Health Shots contacted Dr. Vaishali Joshi, Obstetrician and Gynecologist at Kokilaben Ambani Hospital, Mumbai, and Dr. Sweta Budyal, Consultant Endocrinologist and Diabetologist at Fortis Hospital, Mulund, to explore the possible link between thyroid disorders and menopause.

Thyroid disorders may be linked to early menopause. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

What are thyroid disorders?

The thyroid is an endocrine gland located in front of the trachea and located in the neck. Dr. Joshi explains that it secretes a very essential hormone called thyroid in the body which controls the metabolism of our body. Any dysfunction in glandular function is called a thyroid disorder.

Disorders of the thyroid gland include the following conditions:

• Hypothyroidism (decreased production of thyroid hormones)
• Hyperthyroidism (excessive production of thyroid hormones)
• Goiter (enlarged thyroid gland)
• Thyroid nodules (benign or cancerous tumors of the thyroid)
• Ectopic thyroid gland (abnormal location of the gland).

What is the link between thyroid disorders and premature menopause?

Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can disrupt the menstrual cycle and the normal functioning of the reproductive system. But does this mean that menopause can happen earlier? Early menopause is when a woman stops having periods before age 40 or in her early 40s.

According to Dr. Joshi, it is not usual for a thyroid disorder to cause premature menopause. Dr. Budyal shares that the majority of thyroid disorders we see today are due to autoimmunity, in which the immune system causes damage to the organ. This process can often also affect the ovaries. Thus, premature menopause is more common in women with thyroid disorders than in the general population. But a direct link between the two has not yet been established.

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How do you know the difference between thyroid and menopause symptoms?

Some women mistake their thyroid problems for menopause. You can’t blame them for confusing hyperthyroidism with menopause. This is because hyperthyroidism and menopause can present with similar symptoms, such as increased sweating, heat intolerance, irritability and irregular periods, says Dr. Budyal. Don’t worry, as these can be easily differentiated by performing a simple and widely available thyroid function test on a blood sample.

early menopause
Menopause can come early. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Causes of early menopause

If you have a family history of early menopause, you are more likely to experience the same. Other causes are:

• Chemotherapy or radiotherapy for the treatment of cancer.
• Removal of the ovaries
• Hysterectomy surgery (removal of the uterus)
• Viral infections like mumps.

Pituitary gland disorders can also sometimes mimic premature menopause.

Thyroid disorder or not, premature menopause is known to cause many health problems like osteoporosis, poor quality of life and increased risk of heart problems. The good news is that women who go through premature menopause have treatment options, including hormone replacement therapy. You only need to identify it quickly so that the treatment can make a difference.

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