Menstrual problems and thyroid conditions have sometimes been linked together as symptoms of one another, namely an undiagnosed, underlying thyroid issue that can alter the menstruation cycle. Thyroid diseases can vary in their conditions, and hidden thyroid conditions can manifest in symptoms of irregularities or disturbances in the normal pattern of your menstrual cycle.
So what is a thyroid condition?
The thyroid exists as a small gland at the base of your neck, and works as a producer of the thyroid hormone, which controls some of the body’s processes, such as calorie burning and the rate at which your heart beats. The thyroid gland is one of the largest endocrine glands in your body, and is very important in controlling bodily functions and interactions between hormones.
Thyroid diseases typically occur depending on whether the thyroid produces too little or too much thyroid hormone, disturbing the balance of your body’s functioning and causing a slew of problems. Women are more likely than men to have these diseases, and oftentimes irregularities in their menstrual cycles are caused by some form of thyroid disease.
What is hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism, known as the underactive thyroid, is a member of the thyroid disease family. In this condition, the thyroid gland is unable to produce enough of the thyroid hormone. This is the most common thyroid condition among women, and the disease itself typically varies in its symptomatic signs. Some people report having dramatic symptoms, while others have no idea they have the disease at all because there are no signs.
Symptoms are typically mild, however, since hypothyroidism tends to develop gradually over time. In general, hypothyroidism is known to trigger a slowing of the metabolic processes, resulting in overall fatigue, feelings of sluggishness, weight gain, and intolerance to cold temperatures. Hypothyroidism can also inhibit sweating, causing the skin to become dry, and can also cause minor swelling around the eyes.
How do hypothyroidism and your menstrual cycle relate?
Just because you don’t have the general symptoms of hypothyroidism doesn’t mean you don’t have it. Many times, undiagnosed cases of hypothyroidism tend to have an effect on the menstrual cycle, although medical professionals don’t exactly understand the exact link between the two. If you notice differences in your period, accompanied by any of the other symptoms of hypothyroidism, you will want to consult a doctor. The most common affect that hypothyroidism has on the menstrual cycle is with cycle length and menstrual blood flow.
Early menstrual onset: Hypothyroidism can cause early menstruation and an early puberty in girls before the age of 10. The condition can cause periods to begin earlier than normal as well.
Heavier periods/Menorrhagia: Excessively heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding can be a sign of hypothyroidism, as the condition is associated with menorrhagia in women.
More frequent, longer periods: Is your period coming more often than normal? Hypothyroidism can trigger your period to come more frequently, in which women find their cycle shortening and the length of their periods increasing.
Dysmenorrhea: Are you experiencing a more painful menstruation than normal? Hypothyroidism can also cause painful menstrual periods, also known as dysmenorrhea. Symptoms such as an aching or stabbing backache, nausea, leg aches, bloating, headaches, and bowel disturbances can be a sign.
Thyroid diseases in general can wreak havoc in the reproductive system. Women who experience drastic irregularities in their periods before menopause should seek their health care provider, as undiagnosed hypothyroidism will continue to cause unpleasant symptoms in the menstrual cycle.
How is it treated?
The good news is that hypothyroidism can be treated, although you will likely need to take thyroid hormone pills for the rest of your life. Most commonly, your doctor will prescribe you medication that includes a man-made form of the thyroid hormone, to help increase the amount of thyroid hormone present in your body. However, even as you are being treated for hypothyroidism, irregular menstrual symptoms may still continue. You may need further hormone treatment in that case.
You can also pursue alternative remedies, under the guidance of a medical professional or nutritionist. Some women will turn to alternative means of treatment to remedy their menstrual symptoms, such as taking calcium supplements to reduce painful menstruation. Other women take iron supplements to balance out the iron they lost from excessively heavy menstrual bleeding, and some herbs are even thought to mitigate some of the menstrual symptoms as well.
While hypothyroidism is sometimes accompanied by distinguishable symptoms, you may not have any indication whatsoever of the disease, which is why it is important to pay attention to the severity of the changes in your menstrual cycle and determine when it is time to seek medical advice.