Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism in Men: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment
The endocrine system consists of many glands, the hormones secreted from these glands regulates vital functions of our body. Hypothyroidism or Hyperthyroidism in Men can lead to various health issues like weight gain, heart issues, etc.
Article Information: This article is medically reviewed by Dr. Medhavi Jogi, MD, Endocrinologist.
The thyroid gland is located in the middle of your neck region. This butterfly-shaped gland secret the three important thyroid hormones.
- Thyroxine (T4)
- Triiodothyronine (T3)
These hormones are very important for the normal functioning of various organ cells in your body.
They help regulate various body functions like heart rate, basal metabolic rate, muscle function, development of your brain cells, etc.
Iodine is one of the building blocks of T3 and T4 hormones. You might have come across the label on salt packets which highlight “Iodised Salt”
As the word suggests it is a health condition where your thyroid gland is underactive. It does not produce enough of the three hormones and might need hormone replacement tablets levothyroxine.
Feeling tired or difficulty in losing weight can be signs of hypothyroidism but a medical diagnosis is required to confirm and start the medication (3).
Hypothyroidism is very common in the United States of America and other parts of the world too. In the US around 4.6 percent of people above 12 years of age are diagnosed with hypothyroidism.
Even in Asian countries, the thyroid disorder is common. In India, more than ten million cases of hypothyroidism are diagnosed every year (4).
We will discuss the symptoms, causes, how to diagnose hypothyroidism and treatment in the further sections.
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism
The symptoms of hypothyroidism are not easily visible as they are similar to symptoms of various other health issues.
The thyroid gland is part of our endocrine system. It has an effect on the central nervous system and its functions.
Some common symptoms are fatigue, weight gain, depression, etc. Let us discuss the common symptoms.
1. You might experience weight gain
It is one of the most common symptoms of hypothyroidism.
It is seen if you have low levels of the thyroid hormones (T3, T4) you might see an increase in body weight.
However, you might rarely observe a massive amount of weight gain.
In general, around 5 to 10 pounds of weight gain is observed which again depends on how severe the case is.
2. May result in reduced appetite
According to Dr. Murphy, MD, loss of appetite might be observed in people suffering from an underactive thyroid.
According to a recent study, regulation of thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) stimulates thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and the T3 hormone can have an effect on the appetite (7).
Due to the reduced metabolism, you might feel weak and suffer from body pain.
3. Can cause constipation
Constipation may be a visible symptom in people suffering from hypothyroidism.
A study by Dr. William Bennett Jr (M.D.) and Dr. Robert Heuckeroth (M.D. and Ph.D.) suggest hypothyroidism is a rare cause of isolated constipation in kids (8). The same observation can be extended to men.
Although it is rare but can be regarded as a symptom of hypothyroidism. The digestion process can be impacted by the low level of thyroid hormones. As a result, you might suffer from chronic constipation.
You can try home remedies for constipation if you suffering from it. if it still persists, consult your doctor.
The muscle lines of your digestive tract are slowed down including the small and the large intestine.
4. You might experience dryness of skin
Thyroid disease can cause beauty related problems and can lead to dry skin. The skin gets swollen, waxy, and dry.
A skin issue more commonly associated with hypothyroidism is myxedema.
According to clinical research, in myxedema glycosaminoglycan deposition increases in the skin along with the deposition of dermal acid mucopolysaccharides, notably hyaluronic acid (9).
Another effect of hypothyroidism is can be reduced blood flow. Your skin may receive low levels of blood supply. This can be one-fourth of the total blood supply compared to the normal state.
Due to the low levels of blood, your wounds might take a long time in order to recover and you might also have swollen lips and eyelids puffed.
The moisture content of your skin gets reduced rapidly as a result, your skin becomes flaky and rough. You can experience reduced sweating.
You can try various home remedies for dry skin.
There might be changes in the texture of your skin and your nails might become brittle and might break easily even with the slightest of the effort.
5. Can result in joint pain
Both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism can cause joints and muscle-related problems.
A study suggests, various bone-related issues like myalgias and arthralgias to true myopathy and arthritis can be due to hypothyroidism (10).
Myopathies mean a major effect on your skeletal muscles. This can increase the risk of you suffering from an autoimmune disease like arthritis. This is generally observed in the proximal muscles.
6. Can cause fertility issues, impact testis function
Amongst all these symptoms, there’s a high chance of you suffering from low libido.
A recent study suggests, almost half of the total percentage of the men were found to be diagnosed with premature ejaculation, and most of them suffering from a low sexual desire (11).
The study to understand hypothyroidism and semen quality yielded a positive correlation between the two. A very low amount of thyroid hormones can affect testis function and semen abnormalities.
In general, yoga exercises can be helpful to maintain sex health. One of such yoga practice is Ashwini Mudra.
7. You might experience fatigue
Sudden changes in your mood and energy may be observed and can have a major impact on your body.
Hypothyroidism can make you feel sluggish or depressed or tired or all the three at the same time.
This feeling of weakness less to fatigue which makes you full and doesn’t let your body work properly. It might also lead to problems with sleep, restlessness, and irritability.
Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms found in almost all people suffering from hypothyroidism.
8. Might cause depression
There is no clear evidence recorded, but in some cases of hypothyroidism, you can face some unusual nervousness. It can slow down the mental processes to an extent that can cause severe depression.
You might face memory-related problems such as forgetting about things very easily as well.
9. Can cause excess hair fall
Losing your hair can be associated with a thyroid disorder.
A person suffering from prolonged thyroid disorder might face hair related problems. You lose hair from the entire scalp.
Because of health disorders like thyroid dysfunction, your body might not get all the vitamins required for hair growth.
Hair fall can be caused due to some other reasons as well.
Because of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, your scalp goes dry thereby losing lots and lots of hair.
10. Might cause sleep disorders, sleep apnea
You might feel sleep deprived or have a series of interrupted sleep during hypothyroidism.
The under reactive thyroid causes sleep-related problems, lethargy, and intellectual deterioration. Thyroid replacement has shown great results in myxedematous patients (16).
You might suffer from sleep apnea, the condition in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. There is a high chance of you sweating during the night while sleeping.
Hypothyroidism can create depression and can cause insomnia. Patients with chronic hepatitis B might show symptoms of insomnia due to low levels of thyroid (17).
11. Can result in high Tri-Glycerides
Hypothyroidism or thyroid dysfunction can increase the level of unhealthy cholesterol (in medical terms hypercholesterolemia) that might lead to various cardiovascular diseases (18).
Hypercholesterolemia in hypothyroidism is caused because of a reduction in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) receptor activity.
A study conducted on mice observed increased fat accumulation in the tissues of hypothyroid mouse models (19).
Causes of hypothyroidism
- Inflammation of the thyroid.
- Hashimoto’s disease.
- Not normal iodine levels.
- Radiation treatment of the thyroid.
- Genetic disorders.
- Surgery or medication that affects the thyroid.
Who is at higher risk
The risk to get diagnosed with underactive thyroid increases if it’s in your family (genetic) or you have any disorder related to thyroid.
It is observed that people with goiter or any other thyroid-related disorder were at higher risk.
A study that involved 45 cancer patients (around 82% males and 18 % females) who took radiation therapy showed some signs of thyroid dysfunction (22).
Diagnosis of hypothyroidism
A blood test is a trusted way to diagnose thyroid dysfunction (23).
The test includes the measurement of TSH and thyroxine levels to understand if the thyroid is underactive or overactive.
A low level of thyroxine and a high level of TSH suggests that you have hypothyroidism.
The level means the pituitary gland is trying to send a strong signal (producing excess TSH) to stimulate thyroxine production but the thyroid gland is not able to produce it.
The American Thyroid Association task force has investigated various possible treatments for thyroid dysfunction.
They reviewed the following therapeutic categories:
- Levothyroxine therapy
- Non–levothyroxine-based thyroid hormone therapies
- Use of thyroid hormone analogs
Out of all the possible treatments, the first one levothyroxine therapy is found most suitable (24).
You can even try yoga for thyroid. Though there is no clear evidence that yoga cures thyroid disorders but it can help in keeping the endocrine system healthy.
Food is an important aspect in the treatment of any disorder. You can follow the thyroid diet plan if you are diagnosed with any thyroid disorder.
A. Food for thyroid
Generally, doctors recommend foods that would help you with the necessary nutrition during the phase of this disorder. You can read the article on foods for thyroid disorder to know the foods and nutrition in detail.
Whole Grains: Wheat, millet, oat, etc.
Green Veggies: Brocolli, kale, spinach, cabbage, etc.
Nuts: Walnuts, peanuts, etc.
Berries: Strawberry, blueberry, etc.
B. Foods to avoid with thyroid
There are certain foods that you shall strictly avoid during thyroid.
You can read the article on foods to avoid with thyroid to know the complete list and how to avoid those foods.
These foods include
- Meat and hard to digest animal products.
- Gluten foods.
- Hight sugar foods.
In the previous section, we have learned about hypothyroidism that is caused because of low levels of thyroid. Similarly, hyperthyroidism is the thyroid disorder in which the thyroid gland produces excess thyroxine.
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism
The symptoms are somewhat common with other thyroid disorders, here are some of those common symptoms.
1. Can cause weight loss
Hyperthyroidism can result in weight loss. Many times it is not easy to discover the reason for your weight reduction without any efforts in that direction, but health disorders can be one of those.
2. May result in Increased Appetite
Hyperthyroidism can result in increased appetite.
The overactive thyroid secret excess amount of T3, T4 hormones which are not required by the body. This can affect the metabolism function and affect the appetite.
3. Might cause swelling (Neck Region)
Having a swollen neck region is a symptom observed in people with thyroid-related health issues. This condition is medically known as Goiter.
The common causes of Goiter are hyper or hypofunction of your thyroid gland.
Sometimes inflammation of the thyroid gland can also result in Goiter.
The swelling creates discomfort in front of your neck and can also lead to troubles with swallowing of the food.
In severe cases, it can also lead to tumors or the formation of nodules within the thyroid gland. If it gets worse, it can cause you various troubles and is very painful as well.
4. May result in fertility issues & low sperm quality, motility
Hyperthyroidism is associated with low sperm density and motility (27).
This hyperthyroidism causes many hormonal changes in the body and has a major role in the production of low testosterone levels in men.
In order to ignore this, you need to maintain a normal thyroid level in your body so that you don’t suffer from all these symptoms.
5. You might feel anxiety
You might expect to get severe mood swings in case of hyperthyroidism along with anxiety and irritation.
There were various studies conducted but could not find a conclusive correlation. So you might or might not experience anxiety due to hyperthyroidism (28).
6. Might increase the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
Studies suggest that an imbalance in the thyroid hormone can create cognitive issues.
One such study on middle-aged and elderly adults suggests that both hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism can decrease cognitive functioning (29).
There might be a chance for you to forget about things very easily and you might find yourself confused. Hypothyroidism can lead to overthinking and anxiety.
Thyroid dysfunction may increase the risk of dementia. Based on a study, a normal level of T4, T3 can reduce the chances of dementia and neuropathological disorders (30).
Another study suggests both low and high TSH level can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease. But men are at lower risk compared to women (31).
7. Can cause high blood pressure
The endocrine disorders can affect various functions of our body and one such common health issue is hypertension.
Hypo and Hyperthyroidism increase the risk of slow lipid metabolism and can result in various cardiovascular diseases. The main risk factor behind heart diseases is blood pressure.
The causes of hyperthyroidism are common like that of hypothyroidism.
Any surgery or radiation treatment of thyroid-related health issues can lead to hyperthyroidism. If you have a family history of this condition you are at higher risk.
A blood test is a preferred way to diagnose hyperthyroidism.
If the thyroxine levels are more than the TSH level it signifies an overactive thyroid. Your doctor can suggest further tests to identify the exact cause of hyperthyroidism.
These tests are
- Radioiodine uptake test.
- Thyroid ultrasound.
- Thyroid scan.
There exist various treatments of an overactive thyroid, some of those listed below. We highly recommend consulting your doctor before going for any treatment.
- Antithyroid medication.
- Radioactive iodine.
Foods for hyperthyroidism
Some of the best foods for hyperthyroidism are
- Dairy products.
- Egg yolk.
- Iodine rich foods.
Nutrients for thyroid disorders
The nutrients required for normal functioning of the thyroid include
Thus, the thyroid gland is a major gland which has a vital role in all your body.
A small dysfunction in this can create a series of problems to your body which might lead to a number of risky diseases.
In order to stay away from all these problems, you need to make sure your thyroid levels are completely alright.
You should run for your levels of hormones as well as the level of blood pressure in your body to avoid thyroid-related problems.
If you’re not yet sure about your thyroid disease, go through the above symptoms and make sure about your thyroid levels.
If you find any of these symptoms matching with yours, rush to your doctor and have a proper diagnosis of all your symptoms.
It’s also important for you to choose your medicines properly and if you are having problems with the prescribed medicines, consult your doctor for new and proper medicine to cure all your thyroid-related diseases.