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The Difference Between Menopause and Thyroid Symptoms

by | Feb 20, 2024

Can thyroid disorders and menopause can be confused for each other? They can, unfortunately, due to some common symptoms. However, each has distinct symptoms that can rule the other out. Both are pretty common among middle-aged women.

Asian patient undergoing ultrasound of thyroid nodules and gland

Introduction to Thyroids

Menopause is a stage of a woman’s life where menstruation is in the process of ceasing. At the same time, a woman is losing her fertility and coping with hormonal changes. In the case of thryoid nodules, hypothyroidism can cause changes to a person’s health and body when it goes untreated. An underactive thyroid causes the condition, and it can have various origins. Women are often affected.

Navigating the health complexities of either of these can be challenging. This is especially true when understanding the differences between menopause and thyroid symptoms. Some women can be going through menopause AND have a thyroid disorder. This is why seeing a physician is so important.

Does the Thyroid Affect Menstruation?

Thyroid disorders, whether hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, can disrupt a woman’s normal menstrual cycle. Hypothyroidism, which means an underactive thyroid, may lead to heavier or irregular periods, while hyperthyroidism, an overactive thyroid, can result in lighter or missed periods. Both of these symptoms can have women worried about their hormones or diseases like fibroids.
The hormonal changes associated with menopause can sometimes complicate the picture. Menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes, mood swings, and fatigue, may overlap with some thyroid symptoms. However, there are blood tests for thyroid levels that can rule out other hormonal conditions. A doctor can order these and other tests for you.

It’s essential for women experiencing menopause to be aware of these potential overlaps and consult with a healthcare professional to distinguish between menopausal symptoms and thyroid-related issues. Managing both aspects is crucial for maintaining overall health during this transitional phase.

 

Understanding Thyroid Nodules

Your thyroid, a small butterfly-shaped gland in your neck, significantly regulates your body’s functions. Thyroid nodules are growths or masses that can develop in the thyroid gland in the front of the neck. Thyroid nodules can be solid or fluid-filled. They are most common among women. While most thyroid nodules are non-cancerous, some may have malignant characteristics.

The exact reasons for the formation of thyroid nodules are often unclear, but factors like iodine deficiency, inflammation, genetic predisposition, or hormonal imbalances may contribute to their development. Not all thyroid nodules have noticeable symptoms, but some women may experience difficulty swallowing, a lump in the neck, or voice changes.

Diagnosis for a Thyroid Nodule

  1. Physical Examination: Healthcare professionals may conduct a physical examination to detect any lumps or enlargement in the thyroid gland.
  2. Thyroid function tests: A thyroid blood test checks the levels of thyroid hormones in your blood and whether your thyroid is functioning properly.
  3. Imaging Tests: Ultrasound is a common imaging technique to visualize the thyroid and identify nodules. Other methods like CT scans or MRI may also be employed.
  4. Biopsy: If a nodule appears suspicious, a doctor may perform a fine needle aspiration (FNCA) biopsy. They will collect a small tissue sample for microscopic examination.
  5. Thyroid scan: A small amount of radioactive iodine is administered either through injection or orally. A special camera is then used to take pictures of your thyroid.

Women with thyroid nodules must collaborate and work closely with their healthcare professional to decide the best treatment, if any. Regular follow-ups and monitoring are also essential to managing thyroid nodules in women.

Thyroid Nodules and Disease

Sometimes, it is possible to feel a thyroid nodule. A nodule is a lump or swelling in the thyroid gland located in the neck. While some nodules may not be noticeable, larger ones are easier to find by touch. It’s important to note that not all thyroid nodules are cancerous; many are benign and may not cause any symptoms.

A self-examination, known as a thyroid neck check, can be performed to identify any unusual lumps or swelling in the thyroid area.

Here’s a simple guide for a thyroid self-exam:

  1. Stand in front of a mirror with your neck tilted back slightly.
  2. Take a sip of water and swallow while observing your neck in the mirror.
  3. Look for protrusions or lumps in the thyroid area (located just below the Adam’s apple).
  4. Gently run your fingers over the thyroid area, feeling for any bumps or enlargement.

If you notice anything unusual during this self-exam, such as a lump, swelling, or asymmetry, contact a thyroid nodule specialist for a thorough evaluation. Remember that regular check-ups and screenings performed by a medical professional are crucial for monitoring thyroid health and detecting abnormalities early on.

The Difference Between Hypothyroidism and Menopause

Both menopause and hypothyroidism have symptoms that can be uncomfortable. Hypothyroidism is a condition that a doctor must treat to maintain your body and health. Menopause, however, has symptoms that some women choose to tolerate while others seek relief from. Each requires a doctor to guide the patient toward the best and safest treatment plans.

 

Menopause

Menopause marks a natural and significant stage in a woman’s life, typically around age 50. It’s defined as the permanent cessation of menstruation, signaling the end of the reproductive years. This transition results from hormonal changes, with less estrogen and progesterone production by the ovaries. Several factors can influence when menopause occurs.

  • Family history
  • Women with a family history of early or late menopause may experience it around the same age.
  • Ethnicity
  • Smoking
  • Specific medical treatments can also impact the timing of menopause.

Menopause doesn’t happen overnight; it comes with these possible warning signs and common indicators.

  • Irregular periods
  • Changes in menstrual flow
  • Irregular menstruation
  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats
  • Mood swings
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Vaginal dryness

Some women may face challenges with memory and concentration, sometimes described as “brain fog.” Understanding and recognizing these symptoms can help women navigate this phase with informed decisions about their health and well-being.

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is a condition that occurs when a person’s thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough hormones, crucial for regulating various bodily functions. This imbalance can lead to a slowdown in the body’s processes.

While hypothyroidism can affect anyone, certain factors increase the risk. Women and people over 60 years old are more prone to this condition. Family history, autoimmune diseases, and previous thyroid problems also contribute to the risk. Women treated with radioactive iodine or certain medications may be more susceptible.

Your body gives warning signs and common indicators that your thyroid might be underactive include:

  • Fatigue
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Feeling colder
  • Dry skin
  • Muscle weakness
  • Joint pain can also be signals that your thyroid levels are low.
  • Sluggishness
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Changes in menstrual cycles for women
  • Thinning hair

Hypothyroidism can occur at any age. Middle-aged and older people end up with a diagnosis most often. However, it can affect people of any age and may come with a diagnosis of an autoimmune disease called Hashimotos. With Hashimoto’s disease, your immune system overreacts and attacks your thyroid.

When to See a Thyroid Nodule Specialist 

Taking proactive steps toward your health is essential if you’ve noticed any concerning symptoms or received a diagnosis related to thyroid nodules.

If you experience any of the following symptoms, or your primary care doctor has noticed these symptoms, it’s time to consult with a thyroid nodule specialist:

  1. Palpable Lump in the Neck: If you notice a lump or enlargement in your neck, especially difficulty swallowing or changes in your voice, it’s essential to have it evaluated by a specialist.
  2. Thyroid Nodule Detected During Imaging: If an imaging test, such as an ultrasound, reveals the presence of a thyroid nodule, it’s a good idea to consult a specialist for further assessment.
  3. Suspicious Biopsy Results: If a fine needle aspiration (FNAC) biopsy indicates that the thyroid nodule is suspicious or if cancer is detected, seeking the expertise of a specialist is crucial.

 

Schedule an Appointment at a Specialized Thyroid Nodule Clinic in Singapore

If you’ve noticed concerning symptoms or received a diagnosis related to thyroid nodules, it’s time to take the next step toward your thyroid nodule health.

Schedule an appointment with us to discuss your specific situation. Dr. Manish Taneja will work closely with you to develop a comprehensive plan tailored to your needs. Your thyroid well-being is our priority, and you’ll feel more at ease after taking this proactive step and getting a plan together to get you back to health. Our services include ultrasound-guided biopsies, thyroid function testing, and surgical management of thyroid nodules including minimally invasive treatment options like radiofrequency ablation for optimal thyroid care.

Thyroid Nodule Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) Treatment

Radiofrequency ablation aims to give patients a non-surgical option for treating thyroid nodules. This procedure is a minimally invasive option that a surgeon can perform, should the preliminary tests determine that you would benefit from it.
The Advantages of RFA of Thyroid Nodules
The major advantages of the technique are as below.

  1. It is done as day surgery procedure under light sedation.
  2. It takes about 45 minutes to one hour to complete the entire procedure.
  3. Patients are discharged the same day.
  4. Normal thyroid tissue adjacent to the nodule is preserved.
  5. It does not affect thyroid function.
  6. Multiple nodules can be treated at same time.
  7. The treated nodules do not regrow again.
  8. No surgical scar with needle mark on the skin.
  9. Quick recovery and back to full activity and normal lifestyle.
  10. The technique is suitable to treat even large thyroid nodules.

Find out how thyroid nodule Radiofrequency Ablation can help you in a minimally invasive way on our blog post, “Thyroid Nodule Radiofrequency Ablation Treatment: Diagnosis,  Management, and Recovery.”

Find the Right Doctor

From family and internal medicine to specialist, Dr. Manish Taneja is the best in the field. As a vascular and interventional radiology specialist, Dr Manish Taneja looks after peripheral vascular disease, aneurysms, dialysis interventions, venous diseases like deep vein thrombosis, and varicose veins/spider veins/reticular veins. He is also competent in performing newer endovascular procedures such as uterine artery embolization, prostate artery embolization, genicular artery embolization, and erectile dysfunction interventions. Dr. Manish Taneja also has extensive experience in performing all vascular interventions, non-vascular interventions and interventional oncology procedures.

Read More About Vascular Treatments on Our Blog

To dive deeper into the types of vascular treatments such as thyroid nodule radiofrequency ablation, head over to our clinic’s blog.  Read our recommended vascular treatments related blog posts to stay informed.

Thyroid Nodule Resources

How to Keep Thyroid Healthy for Optimal Well-Being

As part of the endocrine system, the thyroid hormones must be perfectly balanced at all times for the body to function normally.

Woman holding and using megaphone

Caring For Your Thyroid Health

 

Have you ever experienced difficulty swallowing or breathing? You may have risk factors including a family history of thyroid nodules or iodine deficiency. Thyroid nodules are abnormal lumps (growths) within the thyroid gland, a butterfly-shaped gland located below your voice box. Even if most thyroid nodules are benign, 10-15% of nodules are cancerous. Sometimes overgrowth of normal thyroid tissue can lead to hyperthyroidism. In other cases, multiple nodules can form in the thyroid called multinodular goiter. Fluid filled thyroid cysts can be one type of thyroid nodule within the thyroid. More complex nodules may lead to thyroid cancers.

Depending on the root cause and type of nodule you have, patients can monitor with regular ultrasound or even have a thyroid fine needle aspiration biopsy (FNAC) if required. Surgery to remove partial or whole thyroid gland can be done but thanks to minimally invasive treatments such as Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA), this procedure can treat noncancerous and cancerous thyroid lumps.

Types of Thyroid Nodules and Cancer

Watch our video guide and find out more on our blog post, “Types of Thyroid Nodules and Cancer” with the types, causes, evaluation, biopsy, treatment options, and when to see a thyroid specialist. Find answers to questions on whether thyroid nodules are cancerous or not.

Arrange Your Appointment

Consult Vascular Specialist, Dr. Manish Taneja

Other Health Conditions

The Supreme Vascular and Interventional Clinic is your “go-to” facility for various conditions and pain management. To arrange an appointment with Dr. Manish Taneja, our thyroid nodule specialist, contact us. You can also call us at (+65) 6904 8084 for a consultation.