The thyroid gland is an endocrine gland that plays a critical role in metabolism and how the body creates energy from food. Due to the wide range of symptoms caused by an overactive or underactive thyroid, thyroid disorders in women are often overlooked or misdiagnosed.
The thyroid gland is located at the base of the neck, just above the collarbone, and manufactures thyroid hormone, also known as the metabolic hormone. This hormone regulates tissue growth, maintains blood pressure and is critical in the development of the reproductive system.
Depending on the amount of thyroid hormone that is released, some women may suffer from hyperthyroidism, commonly referred to as overactive thyroid, or hypothyroidism, which is also known as underactive thyroid.
Women with hyperthyroidism may notice weight loss, nervousness, irregular heartbeat, insomnia, muscle weakness and shorter menstrual cycles. Those who have hypothyroidism may suffer from weight gain, constipation, dry skin, slow heart rate, decreased taste and smell, hair loss and heavy menstrual cycles.
Causes of hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid, are autoimmune disorders, radiation treatment, and surgical removal of the thyroid gland; causes of hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid, can be pregnancy, Grave's disease, or the overtreatment of hypothyroidism.
Treatment for hypothyroidism is daily doses of thyroid supplements. Drugs specifically designed to block the the amount of thyroid hormone in the body, radioactive iodine therapy, or surgery to remove a portion of the thyroid gland are common treatments for hyperthyroidism.