How Hyperthyroidism Presents Differently In Men Versus Women

You may be familiar with the medical term "hyperthyroidism," which is a condition that affects the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is an organ that releases hormones to sustain essential operations within the body, such as breathing, heart rate, body weight, and body temperature, as well as playing a role in menstrual cycles (per EndocrineWeb). It's part of the endocrine system, which releases hormones into the bloodstream before they travel to individual cells. Additionally, the thyroid gland can be found within the base of the neck and resembles the shape of a butterfly. The hormones produced by the thyroid gland are regulated by the pituitary gland and hypothalamus in the brain. 

In individuals with hyperthyroidism, the thyroid gland is overactive, producing an excess of hormones according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). This contributes to the functions of the body occurring faster than they normally would. It's important for hyperthyroidism to be evaluated and treated, as the condition is associated with a number of health issues, such as irregular heartbeat, stroke, heart failure, and osteoporosis. In addition, Medline Plus explains that untreated hyperthyroidism can, in rare cases, lead to vision loss.

You may be wondering how an overactive thyroid gland presents itself differently in both men and women. Although NIDDK reports that hyperthyroidism is more commonly observed in women, it can also occur in men and can come with its own set of unique challenges for each of the sexes.

How does hyperthyroidism affect men compared to women?

Despite there being individual differences in how the condition presents itself between the sexes, there are general symptoms of hyperthyroidism that each sex can experience. For instance, Medical News Today reports that someone with an overactive thyroid can experience irritability, fatigue, mood swings, insomnia, hair loss, increased bowel movements, and unintentional weight loss

For men, having hyperthyroidism can adversely affect their sexual health (per Healthline). Hyperthyroidism can decrease testosterone levels and lead to erectile dysfunction or enlargement of a male's breasts. It can reduce sperm count and sperm density, which can trigger problems with fertility. Additionally, males with the condition may notice premature balding or a decrease in their muscle mass. 

Women are 10 times more likely to experience hyperthyroidism than men (per National Health Service). According to Medical News Today, women's reproductive health can also be compromised by having an overactive thyroid, albeit differently than men. Because thyroid hormones have a direct relationship with a woman's menstrual cycle, hyperthyroidism can lead to irregular and lighter periods. Women with the condition may also miss their period altogether, as explained by eMedicineHealth

Similarly to men who have hyperthyroidism, women can experience infertility, and these women can have trouble becoming pregnant. Having hyperthyroidism during pregnancy can contribute to unique complications for the unborn baby, such as premature birth and lower birth weight. In some cases, an overactive thyroid can result in pregnancy loss.