Thyroid Disease Can Land a Powerful Blow to a Woman’s Health

Disorder can lead to serious health issues when undiagnosed or untreated

DAYTON, Ohio (April 22, 2014) – The thyroid – a butterfly-shaped gland located in a woman’s neck – may be small, but it has a lot of power influencing every cell, tissue and organ in the body.

The small gland rules a woman’s weight, heart rate, energy level and mood. And even the slightest imbalance in the amount of hormones released from the gland can significantly increase a woman’s risk for major diseases and even affect her ability to conceive a child, according to the American Thyroid Association Off Site Icon (ATA).

A woman can develop two different types of thyroid disease when the gland is not working properly. Hypothyroidism, the more common of the two, is when the gland is not producing enough hormone. Hyperthyroidism is when the gland is producing too much of the hormone. About 12 percent of Americans will develop a thyroid disease within their lifetime, the majority of which will be women.

Thyroid disease and its treatment are not new to the medical community, however, its cause is often unclear and its early detection can be a challenge, said Suzanne Bell, MD, a primary care physician at Vandalia Family Care.

“It’s a disease that can be diagnosed through a simple lab test and be detected fairly early if we are looking for it,” said Dr. Bell, a Premier HealthNet physician. “But the problem is that many of these symptoms – such as fatigue – are so common in our society when we are doing too much. We often can blame it on other things.”

Women are five to eight times more likely than men to develop thyroid disease. Undiagnosed thyroid disease may put patients at risk for certain serious conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis and infertility. Pregnant women with undiagnosed or inadequately treated hypothyroidism have an increased risk of miscarriage, preterm delivery, and severe developmental problems in their children, the ATA said.

It’s extremely important for women to know the symptoms of thyroid disease. They also need to feel comfortable enough to pursue testing for the disease with their primary care physician if they suspect they may have one or more of them – especially since no clear consensus recommends routine screening for the disease exist, Dr. Bell said.

Women whose thyroid is not producing enough hormones (hypothyroidism) will see the effects of her metabolism slowing, she said. Therefore, symptoms will include fatigue, weight gain, dry skin, constipation, depression, dry hair or even loss of hair. Hypothyroidism often progresses slowly over time, which can make it difficult to diagnose right away.

Women whose thyroid is producing too much hormone (hyperthyroidism) often see the disease progress faster and present itself in a shorter amount of time. Symptoms may include weight loss, diarrhea, sweating, tremors, anxiety and increased heart rate. In this instance, it is as is “things are moving too fast,” Dr. Bell said. This type of thyroid disease – the majority of which is caused by an autoimmune disorder called Graves’ disease – is less common.

There is a genetic link to thyroid disease so anyone who has a family history of the disease should be carefully monitored. Also, anyone who has a goiter – which is the swelling or enlargement of the gland – should be tested as it usually signals a dysfunction of the gland.

Most thyroid diseases are lifelong conditions, but can be treated with medication. Women usually see a difference in their well-being fairly quickly once their medication is adjusted appropriately.

For more information on thyroid disorders or to find a Premier HealthNet physician near you, visit

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