According to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE), millions of women with menopausal-like symptoms, even those taking estrogen, may be suffering from undiagnosed thyroid disease. While symptoms such as fatigue, depression, mood swings, and sleep disturbances are frequently associated with menopause, they may also be signs of hypothyroidism. A survey done by the AACE showed that only one in four women who have discussed menopause and its symptoms with a doctor were also tested for thyroid disease. The thyroid plays a role in regulating overall body metabolism and influences the heart, brain, kidney, and reproductive system, along with muscle strength and appetite.
The case presented above illustrates how the symptoms of hypothyroidism can be attributed to menopause. While the issue of menopause needs to be addressed, it is also important to remember that the incidence of hypothyroidism increases with aging and can co-exist with other conditions.
Menopause simply means the end of menstruation for one year. As a woman ages, there is a gradual decline in the function of her ovaries and the production of estrogen. Around the time a woman turns 40, this process speeds up. This transition is known as perimenopause.
Women typically menstruate for the last time at about 51 years of age. A few stop menstruating as young as 40, and a very small percentage as late as 60. Women who smoke tend to go through menopause a few years earlier than nonsmokers...
As patients, you should be aware of the signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism and let your doctor know if you have concerns about your thyroid function. If you are a woman experiencing symptoms of menopause, do not hesitate to discuss them with your doctor. If you feel that the symptoms are persisting despite appropriate therapy, it may be worthwhile to have your TSH checked. A blood sample is all that is needed to make the initial diagnosis of hypothyroidism and treatment is easily achieved with thyroid replacement therapy.