A lot of women in their 30s and 40s come into our office, complaining of sluggishness, weight gain, brittle nails and hair loss, having been diagnosed by other doctors as having thyroid disease. It can be confusing because these symptoms can be attributed to hypothyroidism or they can be signs of menopause – in fact, up to 20% of women are misdiagnosed as having thyroid disease when their symptoms are really due to menopause.
According to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, only one in four women who have brought up menopause symptoms to their doctors have been tested for thyroid disease. With this mix-up, you could end up getting the wrong treatment that doesn’t fit your needs at this time and it could leave you feeling increasingly frustrated and uncomfortable.
The tricky thing is that menopausal symptoms are easy to confuse with thyroid disease with shared symptoms such as fatigue, mood swings, depression and insomnia. Menopause could be confused for thyroid disease and hypothyroidism could be confused for menopause – so how do you keep yourself from falling victim to a misdiagnosis? We’re here to help.
Here are the key differences that you should look for:
Menopause typically occurs in women between 45 and 52 years old, whereas thyroid disease has a much broader age range – it can occur between the ages of 35 and 65.
Both menopause and thyroid disease leave you feeling achy, but in different ways! Menopausal women typically have muscle tension, joint pain and breast tenderness; thyroid disease normally affects your limbs and neck by causing them to swell.
Thyroid disease can result in loss of hair in your eyelashes or eyebrows, whereas menopause can involve the thinning of your hair on your head.
Blood tests can determine which of these is afflicting you – for menopause, your follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) levels will be tested to check out your estrogen levels. For thyroid disease, tests like the T4 test or thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) will help your doctor diagnose hypothyroidism.
Beyond those differences, menopause and hypothyroidism symptoms overlap so much that it’s really the best choice for your health if you talk to your doctor as soon as you experience these symptoms. Ask to have your FSH and TSH checked – don’t waste another minute wondering if you’re treating the right condition!
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