It’s not one of the most prominent consequences one thinks of when the topic of thyroid disease rolls about, but we spoke to Assoc. Prof. Dr. Rohana Abdul Ghani, Consultant Endocrinologist at UiTM Private Specialist Center to find out how it can affect fertility and signs to look out for:
What exactly is thyroid disease?
It’s a medical condition that affects the normal functions of the thyroid gland and the release of the thyroid hormones. Thyroid diseases can range from the harmless enlargement of the gland with normal thyroid hormones; to too much thyroid hormones known as hyperthyroidism; to too little hormones known as hypothyroidism; and finally, thyroid cancers.
What does the thyroid gland do?
It’s a butterfly-shaped gland that sits at the front of the neck. It produces, stores and releases the thyroid hormones that control our body’s metabolism, which mainly regulates the heart rate, nervous system, weight and body temperature.
How does thyroid affect fertility?
Abnormalities in thyroid function can affect reproductive health resulting in lower conception, increased risk of abortion, adverse pregnancy outcome and neonatal problems. More specifically, hyperthyroidism can cause irregular menses in women and lower sperm count in men. Hypothyroidism could reduce ovulation, early miscarriage, preterm birth and low birth weight in the baby.
Is there a cure for it?
Both hyper- and hypothyroidism once diagnosed can be easily and promptly treated. Any patients with a previous history of thyroid disorders, family history of thyroid problems, and symptoms suggestive of thyroid illnesses should have blood tests done for screening.
Can you list down all the signs that someone may have thyroid issues?
Hyperthyroidism commonly presents itself with symptoms of hyperactivity including palpitations, hand tremors, heat intolerance, inexplicable significant weight loss, loss of concentration, insomnia and mood lability (changes in mood). Other systemic manifestations include diarrhoea, hair loss and lethargy. Amenorrhea (the absence of menstruation) ensues following months of irregular menses.
For hypothyroidism, symptoms are usually weight gain, cold intolerance, tiredness, and constipation. Women commonly complain of heavy menses with prolonged hypothyroid state.
What are the statistics like for women to have thyroid problems? Are women more susceptible to thyroid disease/issues than men? If yes, why?
The prevalence of thyroid disease range from 1 to 10% worldwide, being more common in iodine-deficient areas, which reflects the most common underlying cause. It is more common in women than men with a ratio of 7-10 : 1. The reason for this gender disparity is currently uncertain but it is postulated that women are more susceptible to hormonal changes compared to men.