If you are experiencing fatigue, anxiety, chills, weight gain, or loss, and depression, it may be due to an issue with your thyroid.
While it is a more common health concern among women, there are a number of men who suffer from thyroid problems.
Your thyroid, located in the front of your neck, is mainly responsible for the thyroid fluid, which regulates your metabolism rate and protein synthesis.
Having an underactive, or overactive, thyroid gland can lead to heart problems, bone issues, and cancer, if left untreated. Luckily, it is a treatable disorder for both men and women. We will focus on symptoms of thyroid problems in men and how to treat them.
Symptoms of Thyroid Problems in Men
There are several major thyroid disorders that can affect males. Two of the most commonly diagnosed are hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. While the symptoms can be very similar, it is important to note the differences as both affect the body in different ways.
1. Hypothyroidism in Men
With this low hormone level issue, one in seven adults suffer from an underactive thyroid. This condition is more common than hyperthyroidism. In this state, the thyroid cannot provide sufficient thyroid fluid to the body, which can directly affect your metabolic functions and produce symptoms of:
- Weight gain
- Increased cholesterol levels
- Swelling of face
- Slowed heart rate
- Joint pain
- Memory loss
- Hair loss
These symptoms present gradually over time and can be misdiagnosed as symptoms of aging. If left untreated, hypothyroidism can lead to swelling of the neck, or a goiter, heart issues, mentality problems, damaged nerves, and even myxedema, severe swelling of face and extremities.
Hypothyroidism can be caused by Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease that attacks the thyroid. As the most common hypothyroidism cause in the United States, this disease is thought to appear from genetic and environmental factors. Treatments of hyperthyroidism with anti-thyroid medication, surgery and radiation therapy, can also lead to hypothyroidism.
To diagnose hypothyroidism, your doctor will check your thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and thyroid hormone levels with a blood test. Although there is no conclusive scientific evidence, some studies have found a majority of men diagnosed with hypothyroidism, are later diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a painful muscle and joint disease.
Treatment for symptoms of hypothyroidism is levothyroxine, an artificially synthesized thyroid hormone taken daily.
2. Hyperthyroidism in Men
On the other side of the coin, hyperthyroidism deals with an overactive thyroid gland. The high thyroid levels can cause symptoms of:
- Muscle weakness
- Hair loss
- Rapid weight loss
- Increased heart rate
- Hand trembling
- Heat intolerance
- Increased appetite
This increased thyroid hormone level is caused by several autoimmune diseases such as Graves’ disease, which stimulates the thyroid’s overproduction and is the most common cause. Hyperthyroidism can also be caused by toxic adenoma, Plummer’s disease, and inflammation of the gland known as thyroiditis.
As with hypothyroidism, symptoms of hyperthyroidism initial diagnosis based on symptoms may be difficult to the changing symptoms and aging. For instance, you may be experiencing rapid weight loss but the increased appetite symptom may have you increasing your calorie intake by eating more, therein, gaining weight over time. Your doctor will review your medical history, conduct a physical exam, and order blood tests, a thyroid scan, and a radio iodine update.
Treatment can include anti-thyroid medications and beta blockers for any heart complications, use of radioactive iodine to shrink the thyroid, or surgery to remove part, or all of the thyroid gland.
Other Symptoms and Treatments for Thyroid Problems in Men
In addition to the more common diagnoses of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, other thyroid health conditions may also affect men.
1. Thyroiditis occurs when the thyroid gland itself become inflamed and is separated into autoimmune disease of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Postpartum thyroiditis, the viral case of Subacute thyroiditis, bacterial case of Acute thyroiditis, and Drugs and radiation-induced thyroiditis.
Depending on the rate of the thyroid cell damage, symptoms can be similar to hyperthyroidism or to hypothyroidism, with an opposite hormone level effect. If the cell damage is slow, the symptoms reflect those of hyperthyroidism such as weight gain, fatigue, muscle pain, dry skin, and depression. If the damage is fast, the high hormone levels present as hypothyroidism symptoms such as anxiety, tremors, insomnia, weight loss, and increased heart rate.
As the different levels of thyroiditis are categorized, causes include attack by infections, medications, and autoimmune disease.
Medical diagnosis will include hormone level check through blood tests and radioactive iodine uptake. Your symptoms will dictate your treatment as beta blockers are used for those with hyperthyroidism and synthetic thyroid medications for hypothyroidism symptoms. You may be prescribed ibuprofen or aspirin for inflammation.
2. Goiter is a common thyroid issue men experience and occurs when your thyroid gland becomes abnormally enlarged. It is painless but can cause severe health and breathing issues. The main symptom is swelling at the base of the neck as the gland increases in size. This can present symptoms such as difficulty in breathing and swallowing, coughing, voice hoarseness, and tightening of throat.
Common causes include iodine deficiency, thyroiditis, thyroid cancer, and autoimmune diseases of Graves’ and Hashimoto’s.
Goiters are usually treated with thyroid medications for the hypothyroidism symptoms and to stop the growing of the goiter size by hindering the TSH production.
3. Thyroid cancer is rare but understandably the most severe thyroid problem. In the early stages, there are no symptoms until observation of swelling of the neck, and swelling and pain of the lymph nodes cause difficulty breathing, swallowing and present voice hoarseness.
Exposure to high radiation levels and heredity genes are the main causes of thyroid cancer, which can be divided into four types.
- Papillary and follicular thyroid cancers due to follicles.
- Medullary thyroid cancer stems from the hormone calcitonin producing cells.
- Anaplastic thyroid cancer is the most aggressive thyroid cancer.
- Thyroid lymphoma quickly develops from the immune system cells.
Your doctor can diagnose these forms of cancer with blood tests, genetic testing, a biopsy, and imaging tests.
Treatments include surgery of thyroidectomy and lobectomy, chemotherapy, drug therapy and radioactive iodine treatments.
Thyroid problems can range from mild to severe, depending on various symptoms men experience. While they may share similar symptoms with their female counterparts, men can also face fertility and sexual functions issues.
It is also difficult for many men to receive a proper diagnosis as many symptoms either mimic those of other health conditions or may be delayed and thought to be part of the aging process. Any significant changes to your health, especially any symptoms outlined here, should be discussed with your doctor to ensure a fully productive life.