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The thyroid is a small but very important gland located above the collarbone on the front part of the neck. The thyroid gland plays a pertinent role in producing hormones required for regulating growth and development. The butterfly-shaped gland at the base of your neck ensures that your breathing, body weight, cholesterol level and much more are normal. Thyroid disorders like hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can affect how the body functions. Both men and women experience similar symptoms of thyroid disorders, but thyroid symptoms in men differ slightly.
Underactive Thyroid Problems in Men
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism in Men
Hypothyroidism (when the thyroid gland produces low amounts of hormones than normal), slows down metabolism and can therefore affect any organ or system in the body.
Common symptoms include:
- Weight gain
- Poor memory
- Dry skin and brittle nails
- Poor concentration
Some men experience loss of interest in sex and have trouble having erections.
A recent study sought to compare men with hypothyroidism and those without. An erectile dysfunction (ED) test was conducted on all the men using the International Index of Erectile Function Questionnaire. The rates were put on a scale of 5(severe) to 25(no ED).
The men with hypothyroidism averaged a score of 11.75 and the men without averaged 20.81.
Getting the Diagnosis and Treatment You Need
Thyroid symptoms in men develop over a period of time. For major symptoms to happen, the hormone level must be particularly low. It is better when detected early enough so that diagnosis can happen.
The most preferred test for hypothyroidism is the TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) test. The hormone is responsible for telling your thyroid to secrete more thyroid hormone.
Hypothyroidism is treated by replacement therapy of the thyroid hormone in form of a supplement. Your doctor will prescribe the right amount based on your body weight.
People with hypothyroidism will need treatment for life. Although thyroid dysfunction in men is fairly common, the condition affects more women than men. When diagnosed early, the hormone replacement treatment is safe and effective.
Overactive Thyroid Problems in Men
Hyperthyroidism can cause physical and emotional changes including irregular heartbeat, fatigue, low tolerance to heat and sleeping problems.
Due to a disrupted metabolism, some men can have problems with their body weight. Hyperthyroidism can cause weight gain although this is rare. In most cases, men experience weight loss due to overactive metabolism. You may find it difficult to gain weight despite higher calorie intake.
Behavioral changes in men can sometimes cause sleep difficulties. Other symptoms include mood swings, irritability and anxiety attacks.
Irregular Heart Rate
Thyroid symptoms in men can cause very fast heartbeats, of up to 100 beats per minute. Patients may also experience irregular heartbeats and palpitations. When this happens, the patient experiences labored breathing and a feeling like the heart will burst out of the chest. In the elderly, this can lead to heart failure.
An overactive thyroid can sometimes cause goiter or thyroid nodules. The physical changes may include a swelling at the base of the neck.
Some men experience more bowel movements than normal and in some cases diarrhea.
Hyperthyroidism is associated with various skin problems such as dryness, rashes, and discoloration. In some cases, the condition causes acne and edema.
Other common symptoms of hyperthyroidism in men include:
- Muscle tremors
- Increased sensitivity to heat
- Profuse sweating
- Loss of hair
- Puffy eyes
- Overproduction of tears
Since the symptoms of hyperthyroidism in men increase with the severity of the condition, it is quite hard to detect the problem during the initial stages. At this time the thyroid symptoms in men cannot be easily identified.
Always keep an eye on any swelling around your neck region, irregular heartbeat and sudden weight gain or weight loss.
It is possible to lead a perfectly normal life if you have been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. The condition is treatable and you can enjoy a healthy life. When left unmanaged or symptoms ignored, the condition can lead to serious health conditions including heart, bone and eye problems. Muscle weakness and brittle bones may occur due to low calcium levels.
Treatment for thyroid problems depends on the severity and type of deficiency. It includes:
- Beta blockers for heart conditions
- Thyroid hormones
- Anti-thyroid medication
- Radioactive iodine to shrink the overgrown thyroid gland
- Surgery to remove part or the whole gland
Other Thyroid Problems in Men
Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are the most common thyroid issues in men. Other thyroid problems include:
This is an autoimmune condition where the thyroid becomes inflamed. Types of thyroiditis include:
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
- Postpartum thyroiditis
- Drugs and radiation-induced thyroiditis
- Sub-acute thyroiditis (viral cause)
- Acute thyroids (bacterial cause)
Symptoms of the above conditions can be similar to those of hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism depending on the thyroid cell damage. That is, if the cell damage is slow, symptoms are similar to those of hyperthyroidism such as weight gain, depression, and muscle weakness.
If the cell damage is fast, symptoms are similar to those of hypothyroidism, such as anxiety, tremors, insomnia and weight loss.
The different types of thyroiditis are caused by infections, medications or autoimmune disease.
Thyroiditis is diagnosed through blood tests to check for hormones levels and radioactive iodine uptake. Medication is given depending on the type of thyroid symptoms in men. Hypothyroidism is treated with synthetic medications while hyperthyroidism is treated with beta blockers. Ibuprofen is prescribed to reduce the inflammation.
Goiter is a common thyroid problem which occurs when the thyroid gland is enlarged abnormally. Although the condition is painless, it usually causes complications during breathing, swallowing, coughing. It can also cause voice hoarseness.
Common causes of goiter include thyroiditis, iodine deficiency, thyroid cancer and autoimmune conditions such as Graves and Hashimoto’s.
Medication is usually given for hypothyroidism, and to stop the growth of the goiter by suppressing the TSH production.
3. Thyroid Cancer
Although it is rare, it is the most severe thyroid disease. It is difficult to detect during the early stages until there is a swelling causing trouble in breathing, voice hoarseness and painful lymph nodes.
Thyroid cancer is mainly hereditary. It may also occur due to exposure to high radiation levels. There are four types of thyroid cancer:
- Anaplastic thyroid cancer which is the most aggressive form
- Medullary thyroid cancer from calcitonin hormone-producing cells
- Papillary and follicular thyroid cancer caused by follicles
- Thyroid lymphoma from immune system cells
Thyroid cancer is diagnosed through blood tests, biopsy, genetic testing, and imaging.
Treatment includes thyroidectomy, lobectomy, radioactive iodine treatments, drugs, and chemotherapy.
It is recommended that you go for an early checkup before thyroid symptoms become severe. Men also face fertility problems due to thyroid problems. It is therefore recommended that you discuss any bodily changes with your doctor early enough.