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Why Are Women More Prone To Thyroid Problems

It is not easy being a woman, especially in the modern world where the stress of balancing the complicated juggle of both work and home life dominates every day

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It is no surprise that women today are facing a plethora of health issues. Thyroid dysfunctions, usually related to an imbalance of thyroid hormones, are becoming increasingly common with a rough estimation by the American Thyroid Association that about 1 in 8 women would develop thyroid problems during her lifetime. On top of that, it is also estimated that women are 5 to 8 times more likely than men to develop thyroid disorders. These figures point to the increasing instances of health problems such as menstrual cycle imbalance, polycystic ovarian syndrome, sudden weight gain or loss, hypertension, lethargy, dry skin and hair, constipation, etc., all of which further have their own consequences on the body, are faced by women and are directly or indirectly related to thyroid malfunctions.

Scientists have not been able to understand why women are more prone than men to thyroid problems but it is suspected that the development of thyroidism and its variants is linked to autoimmunity which is more commonly found in women than men. Autoimmune diseases are those in which the body interprets a normal body part or its secretions as a threat and produces antibodies to target them. Autoimmunity in link with the thyroid glands produces special antibodies to destroy thyroid cells leading to autoimmune thyroiditis. Autoimmune diseases like Grave’s, which is related to hyperthyroidism, and Hashimoto’s, which is related to hypothyroidism, are two of the most common causes of thyroid diseases and may lead to a development of goitre.

Unfortunately, women are afflicted with these autoimmune diseases more so than men do. The reasons for this are not necessarily understood but they are related to genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors. If you have a family history of thyroid troubles in your family, then you have a higher chance of developing thyroid problems yourself. But environmental and lifestyle choices such as the intake of iodine, adherence to regular exercise, adequate amount of sleep and avoidance of harmful substances like tobacco, also govern the proper functioning of thyroid gland.

After childbirth, the hormones in the body are haywire and take the time to settle down. Women get the short end of the deal because postpartum thyroiditis which is thyroid illness after childbirth occurs in 5 per cent to 9 per cent of women after giving birth. Men at least don’t have to worry about this thyroid problem.

The chances of developing thyroid diseases increase with age, a factor which is common for both men and women, with autoimmunity and routine habits both working in tandem to amplify the risk of thyroid diseases. Research studies also indicate that thyroid problems appear to be more prevalent in people in their middle ages or elderly years.

Sudden weight gain, especially during puberty years and more so if it is accompanied with hormonal imbalances, is commonly associated with thyroid problems. At such times, doctors ask for a thyroid panel to determine whether there could be a correlation. But there is a lack of concrete evidence that being overweight is a risk factor for thyroid illness. Though, on the other hand, people with hypothyroidism, a variant of thyroidism in which the thyroid becomes underactive, are at risk of becoming overweight and even obese because of the effect thyroid hormones have on metabolism.

While the situation is not ideal and nothing can be done about the inherited genetic legacy, sticking to healthy choices in life can do wonders to curb the effects of thyroidism. Consuming the recommended iodine amount as a part of a balanced diet of nutritious fruits and vegetables is a first step towards maintaining your thyroid health. After all, you are what you eat. Stay true to supplements like selenium and its intake schedule, if advised by your doctor. Needless to say, avoiding smoking and limiting your alcohol intake can have a positive effect. Apart from this, follow a regular exercise system to maintain sound body functions and compliment your medication regime. Thyroidism can be managed with proper care, medications and stay true to your doctor’s guidance.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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thyroid healthcare opinion

Dr Avinash Phadke

The author is President & Mentor Clinical Pathology, SRL Diagnostics

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