Hot Flashes: Is Your Thyroid Causing This Symptom?

Hot flashes are symptoms often associated with menopause1.

It is often one of the very first symptoms that a woman experience when she is starting to go through menopause.

Hot flashes tend to become uncomfortable and inconvenient, not only causing embarrassing moments for a woman in public, but also leading to interruptions in her sleeping schedule.

Even though usually associated with menopause, often thought to be brought on by the fluctuations in estrogen levels among women who are going through this phase in life, it should be noted that there are other health concerns that may also lead to similar physiological effects that cause hot flashes as a symptom.

Additionally, it is important to note that some men have also reported experiencing hot flashes, which can obviously not be brought on as a menopausal symptom. For this reason, investigating additional causes for hot flashes may yield appropriate methods for implementing more effective treatment measures among patients suffering these symptoms.

The main purpose of this post is to examine how the thyroid is connected to hot flashes as a symptom.

Hot flashes are considered an official symptom of certain problems that may develop with the thyroid, and may occur in both men and women.

Here, we will address the function of the thyroid and the physiology of the thyroid, as well as consider how the thyroid may be the cause behind hot flashes and similar symptoms, even among some women who are blaming their hot flashes upon their menopausal period of life.

We will also consider additional factors that may influence the risk of the development of hot flashes.

Associated Factors Of Hot Flashes

Numerous studies have looked at hot flashes as a symptom in the past. Different approaches have been used and various results have been reported. The most common associated condition is menopause, primarily among the female population.

One study2 found that, even though menopause is the most commonly associated factor, medical experts need to look at additional health factors, as well as lifestyle factors, that may also contribute to the experience of hot flashes.

The study found that there are numerous additional factors that need to be considered when a woman complains about experiencing hot flashes frequently. Some particular factors that have been pointed out in this study include:

  • Sex steroid hormones, including estrogen.
  • Additional hormones produced by glands that are part of the endocrine system.
  • The presence of mood disorders.
  • Lifestyle habits and factors, such as smoking and alcohol consumption.
  • Physical activity levels.
  • Genetic polymorphisms.
  • The ethnicity of the patient.
  • The consumption of phytoestrogens and soy isoflavones in the patient’s diet.
  • Bodyweight, body mass index and the possibility of obesity as a major contributing factor.

The conclusion made by the study provides a more effective approach to treating hot flashes as a symptom. Instead of primarily targeting menopause as a cause for hot flashes, medical experts are urged to consider additional contributing factors.

With the detection of associated factors, treatment can be administered to address these additional possible causes; thus leading to more efficient treatment methods without the need for experimenting with several treatment options before finding the most suitable option for a particular patient.

The Connection Between Hot Flashes And The Thyroid Gland

In this post, we would like to specifically look at the connection between the Thyroid gland, a part of the endocrine system, and hot flashes. The Thyroid gland serves a vital part in the metabolism of the human body, and is responsible for the production of two particular hormones – T4, or L-thyroxine, and T3, or L-triiodothyronine. T4 is considered a prohormone, whereas T3 is considered the active hormone of the thyroid gland.

These hormones are produced through the utilization of Thyroperoxidate, an enzyme that is able to oxidize iodine. Iodine is a trace substance that plays a crucial part in the formation of both T3 and T4 hormones. T4 hormones consist of 65% iodine and T3 hormones consist of 58% iodine3.

Underactive Thyroid

An underactive Thyroid gland is a condition where the Thyroid is unable to produce an adequate supply of T3 and T4 hormones within the human body. Even more prevalent among women, this condition can affect men as well.

An underactive Thyroid gland is also called Hypothyroidism. While accurate data is not available on the prevalence of Hypothyroidism among men, it is suggested that up to 4.6% of women may be affected by the condition.

The prevalence of Hypothyroidism in women significantly increases with age, with approximately 10% of women aged 65 years and older affected by an underactive Thyroid4.

The North American Menopause Society5 explains that an underactive Thyroid, or Hypothyroidism, leads to the development of symptoms that may include some of those we previously mentioned as associated conditions that can cause hot flashes – such as weight gain, leading to a higher risk of obesity, as well as mood swings.

Overactive Thyroid

An underactive Thyroid gland is not the only Thyroid disorder that can lead to a risk of experiencing hot flashes.

Additionally, it should be noted that an overactive Thyroid, a condition that is usually referred to as Hyperthyroidism, is often associated with hot flashes due to an excessive amount of T3 and T4 hormones being present in the patient’s body; thus leading to a rapid increase in heat within the body and, in turn, the development of hot flashes. Around 1.3% of all women experience Hyperthyroidism.

Similar to Hypothyroidism, this condition’s prevalence also seem to be on the increase when looking at older women, with up to 5% of older female patients being affected by an overactive Thyroid gland.

Associated Symptoms Of Thyroid Gland Disorders

A study6 conducted by the Mansoura University Hospitals in Egypt found that dysfunctions affecting the Thyroid gland can manifest symptoms quite similar to those found in menopause.

For this reason, it is vital for medical experts to look at the Thyroid gland as a possible contributing factors to symptoms when a woman is going through menopause, and not to immediately prescribe her estrogen replacement therapy medication as a solution to her symptoms.

The study was conducted among a group of 360 women. The study found that 11.1% of the women suffered from Thyroid disorders and the administration of appropriate treatment to assist with regulating Thyroid function yielded positive results in regards to their symptoms.

Determining associated symptoms of Thyroid gland disorders, and looking for these particular symptoms when hot flashes are experienced, will help the treatment options provided to a patient suffering from hot flashes be more appropriate and work faster.

Hypothyroidism Symptoms

Hypothyroidism has been associated with symptoms that include:

  • Fatigue
  • Constipation
  • Lethargy
  • Weight gain

Hyperthyroidism Symptoms

Hyperthyroidism has been associated with some of the following associated symptoms:

  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Changes in appetite
  • Thinning hair

Conventional Treatment Approaches To Addressing These Thyroid Gland Disorders

Pharmaceutical treatment options are available to assist with the treatment of both Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism. The particular treatment option administered to a patient depends on the particular Thyroid disorder they are suffering from, as well as the severity of their condition. Additional factors may also be taken into account, such as gender, age and weight.

Hypothyroidism Treatment

The most common form of treatment offered to patients who have been diagnosed with Hypothyroidism is a synthetic replacement for the lack of Thyroid hormones present in their bodies. Levothyroxine is the common active ingredient found in the this type of pharmaceutical drugs7.

By replacing the natural hormone with a synthetically produced hormone, these medication aims to alleviate symptoms of Hypothyroidism and regulate the functions that depend on the presence of Thyroid hormones within the patient’s body. When treated with levothyroxine, medical experts should ensure adequate dosage is provided to the patient, as well as that the timing of administration is correctly recommended to the patient.

This leads to more successful treatment and a lower incidence of experiencing adverse reactions or a reduced quality-of-life.

Hyperthyroidism Treatment

Prior to a treatment plan being administered for Hyperthyroidism, a diagnosis first need to be made for the underlying cause of the condition. There are various causes for Hyperthyroidism, including Graves disease, toxic adenoma and toxic multinodular groiter.

The underlying cause will provide a medical professional more accurate guidance of how the Hyperthyroidism should be treated to prevent an excess amount of T3 and T4 hormones being produced by the patient’s Thyroid gland.

Common treatments administered to patients with Hyperthyroidism8 include radioactive iodine ablation, the most common option provided to patients in the United States, as well as the utilization of antithyroid medication, which may include the use of propylthiouracil or methimazole.

In some cases, surgical thyroidectomy may be a recommended option for the treatment of an overactive thyroid, where the particular areas that are overactive in the patient’s Thyroid gland are removed.

Lifestyle Factors Associated With Improvements In Thyroid Function

Lifestyle factors have a considerable impact on the function of the Thyroid gland. When unhealthy lifestyle factors and habits are adopted, Thyroid function can be adversely impacted. These may cause the Thyroid to develop an excess amount of Thyroid hormones, or lead to the Thyroid’s activity becoming impaired; thus causing an insufficient amount of Thyroid hormones being produced in a patient’s body.

A healthy lifestyle can contribute to a healthy Thyroid gland. Adopting a healthy diet, which should ideally include an adequate supply of antioxidants, as well as vitamins and minerals, will aid in maintaining optimal Thyroid function.

In addition to dietary habits, it is essential to understand that physical exercise is also essential for a healthy endocrine system, including a Thyroid gland that produced an adequate supply of Thyroid hormones. Avoiding smoking and too much alcohol can also be beneficial for improving Thyroid function and avoiding dysfunctions that may adversely affect the Thyroid gland.

Final Words

While menopause still seems to be the most commonly associated condition to the development of hot flashes as a symptom, other factors, such as mood disorders, obesity, lifestyle factors, physical activity levels, and diet also need to be looked at.

In this post, we looked at how a connection between dysfunction of the Thyroid gland may be the cause behind the experience of hot flashes in both men and women. We also analyzed associated symptoms that may signal a Thyroid gland disorder instead of other associated health ailments.

Additionally, we reviewed some of the most effective treatment measures, such as thyroid supplements, that can be utilized to produce improvements in hot flashes as a symptom, as well as associated symptoms.

References

1 Freedman R.R. Physiology of hot flashes. U.S. National Library of Medicine. 2001. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11400216

2 Ayelet Ziv-Gal, Jodi A. Flaws. Factors That May Influence the Experience of Hot Flushes by Healthy Middle-Aged Women. Journal of Women’s Health. 19 October 2010. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2965699/

3 Frances A. Wier, Cindy L. Farley. Clinical Controversies in Screening Women for Thyroid Disorders During Pregnancy. Medscape. 2006. https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/532173_3

4 Mario Skugor. Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism. Cleveland Clinic, Center for Continuing Education. August 2014. http://www.clevelandclinicmeded.com/medicalpubs/diseasemanagement/endocrinology/hypothyroidism-and-hyperthyroidism/

5 Is It Menopause or a Thyroid Problem? The North American Menopause Society. https://www.menopause.org/for-women/menopauseflashes/menopause-symptoms-and-treatments/is-it-menopause-or-a-thyroid-problem-

6 Badawy A., State O., Sherief S. Can thyroid dysfunction explicate severe menopausal symptoms? U.S. National Library of Medicine. 27 July 2007. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17701801

7 Ali J. Chakera, Simon H.S. Pearce, Bijay Vaidya. Treatment for primary hypothyroidism: current approaches and future possibilities. Dovepress. 22 December 2011.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3267517/

8 Kravets I. Hyperthyroidism: Diagnosis and Treatment. U.S. Library of Medicine. 1 March 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26926973

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