Men have thyroid problems, too! A significant proportion of men suffer from thyroid symptoms, and I believe many more men are going through life undiagnosed.
About 20% of the general U.S. population has been diagnosed with thyroid dysfunction, and an estimated 20% more are walking around undiagnosed with these same conditions. Common male maladies such as high cholesterol, high triglycerides, erectile dysfunction, joint/muscle pain, muscle loss, and even infertility are linked to thyroid dysfunction. The good news is that thyroid problems are often easy to fix!
Hypothyroidism is often overlooked in men. Although the majority of people diagnosed with thyroid conditions are women, it doesn’t mean that men aren’t susceptible; about ten to fifteen percent of those diagnosed with thyroid dysfunction are men. I suspect that hypothyroidism in men might be the most under-diagnosed condition in modern medicine. Many men do suffer from hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis as well as hyperthyroidism and Graves’ disease. This lesson will focus primarily on hypothyroid conditions and Hashimoto’s in men.
Many problems that men blame on old age can be a result of poor thyroid function. If not addressed, thyroid problems can lead to more serious health problems. Don’t ignore the symptoms!
Symptoms in Men
Yes, some of these are the same symptoms women experience, but men are more likely than ladies to ignore early symptoms. Therefore, thyroid insufficiency tends to develop into more advanced complications in men because early detection and treatment are missed. Most of the following symptoms can be stopped and even reversed when the hypothyroidism is treated.
- Lethargy, fatigue, low motivation
As long as you stay active, you find that your stress hormones keep you going, but as soon as you sit down and relax, you find it hard to stay awake. This initial symptom is often dismissed as a sign of aging or stress, but unexplained chronic fatigue can indicate a more serious health condition like hypothyroidism.
- Anxiety or depression
The production and utilization of thyroid hormone is directly linked to the synthesis and regulation of crucial neurotransmitters, including GABA, serotonin, and norepinephrine. When thyroid hormones are not functioning properly, the neurotransmitters tend to also get out of balance, causing anxiety and panic attacks. The anxiety is made even worse by the host of physical symptoms that accompany hypothyroidism, such as fatigue and hair loss. Bouts of anxiety are more likely to accompany Hashimoto’s thyroiditis; but do remember that about 90% of all hypothyroid cases are really undiagnosed Hashimoto’s.A more common symptom of non-autoimmune hypothyroidism is depression. Being constantly too tired to complete daily tasks leads to a subtle depression. The depression can start off as a mild case, but as thyroid hormone levels continue to decrease, the depression can become more severe.
- Memory problems, trouble concentrating, brain fog
By themselves, these symptoms don’t indicate hypothyroidism, but if they occur along with other signs and symptoms on this list, you may have hypothyroidism. Don’t ever ignore minor brain symptoms. Untreated thyroid disease increases your risk of getting Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. However, if you address these early signs of brain degeneration now, you can get back your mental sharpness and keep it well into old age. Once advanced dementia sets in, though, there is no way back.
- Hair loss
The classic symptom that is exclusive to hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s is loss of the outer third to outer half of the eyebrows. Some people also experience loss of scalp hair. While this is more alarming for women, it can be a huge source of anxiety to men, too. Sudden loss of hair can be a sign of low production or conversion of thyroid hormones.
- Joint or muscle pain
Hypothyroidism is a common cause of muscle aches, pains, cramps, tenderness, and stiffness as well as joint pain and inflammation. Men often shrug off even the most uncomfortable muscle aches. This can cause a delay in diagnosis of hypothyroidism. It’s important to seek medical advice for extreme muscle pain, unexplained aches, or intense cramps experienced even during rest.These aches and pains can be contributed to a number of causes:
– A common cause of headaches and migraines is poor blood sugar handling (insulin resistance, hypoglycemia, or skipping meals)
– Calcium retention is a common symptom of hypothyroidism. When connective tissue retains calcium, it will begin to calcify, making you stiff and uncomfortable.
– Nutrient and mineral imbalances, most notably magnesium deficiency, is also associated with hypothyroidism and can lead to aches, pains, and muscle cramps.
– The increased estrogen associated with hypothyroidism can cause nerve swelling which can contribute to numbness of hands and/or feet.
- High cholesterol
Do you have high cholesterol and triglycerides? Don’t take statins! Have your thyroid function tested instead.It’s very important to test for thyroid dysfunction before deciding on a course of treatment for high cholesterol and triglycerides. Hypothyroidism causes a person to produce fat faster than it’s burned. This raises total cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides.
Low thyroid function also slows gallbladder and liver function, so that cholesterol isn’t well metabolized for clearance from the body. As a result, cholesterol is more likely to be deposited on the walls of your arteries, especially around the heart, increasing cardiovascular disease risk. Hypothyroidism can even impair your heart’s ability to pump efficiently.
When low thyroid function is identified and corrected, cholesterol will usually return to normal levels.
- Erectile dysfunction
Men may not like to talk about this problem, but since Viagra was one of the top 20 prescribed drugs last year, it’s apparent that many men are relying on a little help in this department.According to the study “Multicenter Study on the Prevalence of Sexual Symptoms in Male Hypo- and Hyperthyroid Patients” in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, most men with a thyroid condition experience some form of sexual dysfunction. 64.3 percent of men studied experienced decreased libido, erectile dysfunction, and delayed ejaculation.
The study also showed the 7.1 percent of hypothyroid males experienced premature ejaculation. Sexual dysfunction can be a source of severe anxiety in men and may lead to increased feelings of depression. Men who experience these problems should not be ashamed to tell their doctors about their symptoms. In most cases the dysfunction is treatable. According to the researchers, proper diagnosis and treatment of thyroid function reversed most of the men’s sexual symptoms.
Thyroid hormones, previously thought not to affect male fertility, are beginning to be recognized as having an important role in sperm production. Correcting thyroid dysfunction may restore a man’s fertility.
- Other common symptoms of hypothyroidism
- Unexplained weight gain
- Inability to lose weight despite decreased appetite
- Insomnia (trouble falling asleep and/or staying asleep)
- Decreased libido
- Muscle weakness, even if muscle size is maintained
- Decreased tolerance to cold
- Decreased insulin sensitivity/pre-diabetes/diabetes
- Common symptoms of hyperthyroidism
- Nervousness, irritability
- Weight loss
- Decreased resistance to heat
- Muscle wasting (sarcopenia) and weakness, especially in thighs and upper arms
- Trembling hands
- Hair loss
- In both hypo- and hyperthyroidism, the ratio between testosterone and estradiol (an estrogen) in the body can become improperly balanced. This can lead to:
- Impaired sperm production
- Reduced libido
- Erectile dysfunction
- Breast tenderness or enlargement
- Excess estrogen and/or testosterone affects T3 uptake, leading to decreased energy.
So, what tests DO I need?
Be sure your practitioner tests for all eleven of the thyroid markers mentioned here, not just TSH and T4.
The eleven essential thyroid markers:
• Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH)
• T3 uptake
• Free thyroxine index (T7)
• Free T3
• Free T4
• Thyroid Peroxidase (TPO) antibodies
• Antithyroglobulin antibody
• Thyroxine Stimulating Immunoglobulin (TSI)
• Reverse T3
• Thyroxine-binding globulin (TBG)
Thyroid disease is a fast-growing condition in North America. Contributing factors include stress, chemical exposure, pesticides and herbicides in our food, and poor diet. On the West Coast of the United States, radiation from the Fukushima disaster in Japan has led to a sharp increase in infants born with thyroid conditions. It stands to reason that we adults may have been affected to some degree as well, but there are no statistics available on this.
Men, if you have any of the symptoms described here, don’t hesitate to get your thyroid health evaluated. Getting older doesn’t mean you need to feel like an “old man” before your time.
Are you concerned that you may have hypothyroidism or undiagnosed Hashimoto’s?
Have you been diagnosed with either condition but your doctor has only given you prescription drugs to manage your symptoms and you’re not feeling better?
If so, I urge you to consult with me to uncover the real story of your health and to give your body the support it needs to heal. I’ll help you find what’s behind your thyroid symptoms and support your body to restore true, natural health.
Call my office for a complimentary 20-minute phone consultation to find out how I can help you or a loved one with their symptoms: (949) 954-6226.