The Connection Between Thyroid Dysfunction & PCOS
There are multiple causes of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) however there is a high incidence of thyroid dysfunction in women with the disease. The thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of the neck. It produces hormones that control metabolism and effects puberty and menstruation. A thyroid that is either overactive or underactive can cause menstrual irregularities including the absence of a menstrual period. Amenorrhea is a primary characteristic of PCOS.
Causes and concerns of PCOS
PCOS is one of the most common hormone-related diseases affecting women of reproductive age and frequently leads to difficult conception. Hormone imbalance, obesity, and insulin resistance are all contributing factors in PCOS, but recently a genetic link was confirmed in a study held at the University of Alabama in Birmingham.
Symptoms of PCOS
There are many symptoms of PCOS including enlarged ovaries with cysts, but almost certainly involve heavy, irregular, or absent menstrual periods and the failure for normal release of eggs from the ovaries. Additional concerns are insulin resistance and excess androgen, a steroid hormone that plays a part in the development of male characteristics. Excess levels of androgen in females can cause the growth of facial hair, thinning of hair at the head, and acne. Prolonged elevated levels can lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and cardiac disorders.
Thyroid dysfunction and PCOS
An underactive thyroid significantly increased the severity of insulin resistance and obesity in women with PCOS according to a study published in the International Journal of Reproduction. The study also found an increased incidence of infertility in women with both PCOS and an underactive thyroid. A dysfunctional thyroid often causes irregular or absent menstrual cycles leading to a thickened uterine lining, development of cysts, and failure of ovaries to release eggs such as seen in PCOS.
Treating thyroid dysfunction, PCOS, and Amenorrhea
Women diagnosed with an underactive thyroid will likely be prescribed a synthetic thyroid hormone and have the level monitored routinely. Taking this medication appropriately will generally correct the hormone level and reduce symptoms including amenorrhea if thyroid dysfunction was the primary cause. Symptoms of PCOS can be greatly reduced, and chances of successful conception increased, through lifestyle changes such as weight loss, stress reduction, consistent sleep patterns, moderate exercise, and healthy eating habits.