Causes Of Hypothyroidism In Women

Causes of hypothyroidism in womenA guest article written by Marina Gutner, PhD from Thyroid Blog Outsmart Disease

Hypothyroidism is a common endocrine disorder caused by a deficiency of thyroid hormone. Dr Datis Kharrazian describes 22 causes of hypothyroidism, however only 6 of them can be diagnosed using standard thyroid blood testing.

Primary hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland fails to produce thyroid hormones necessary to meet the body’s metabolic needs.

Secondary hypothyroidism is caused either by disorder of the pituitary gland or hypothalamus:

  • Pituitary gland fails to secrete thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) leading to deceased synthesis of thyroid hormones.
  • Hypothalamus does not release appropriate levels of the thyroid-releasing hormone (TRH) causing the thyroid gland produce inadequate amount of thyroid hormones.

A variety of disorders could cause secondary hypothyroidism including pituitary adenomas and side effects of their treatments such as surgery and radiotherapy.

The main cause of primary hypothyroidism is an autoimmune thyroid condition called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis which affects women 3 to 5 times more often than men. Genetic predisposition and environmental factors could trigger Hashimoto’s disease causing the immune system to malfunction. The thyroid antibodies attack and destroy the thyroid gland leading to inflammation and hypothyroidism.

How important is to make the right diagnosis and find what causes hypothyroidism? In fact, it often can determine if your hypothyroidism treatment will be effective or ineffective. Many types of thyroid dysfunction don’t require thyroid medication to correct hypothyroidism. Addressing the underlying cause helps to correct hypothyroidism.

Take a FREE Hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s Workshop at  to find out what causes YOUR hypothyroidism and how to treat it.

Pregnancy could cause hypothyroidism due to the shifts in hormonal and immune functions during and after pregnancy. Pregnant women become Th2 dominant in the third trimester. Later on the immune system shifts to Th1 dominance and can trigger Hashimoto’s disease and hypothyroidism.

Both postpartum thyroiditis and silent thyroiditis are a form of chronic autoimmune thyroiditis and could cause hypothyroidism. Postpartum thyroiditis occurs during the first year after delivery. This autoimmune condition affects from 5 to 10% of women who give birth and is characterized by high levels of thyroid antibodies and painless goiter. Postpartum thyroiditis causes temporary mild hypothyroidism that could last up to 4 years and in most cases subside later on.

Silent thyroiditis is also a temporary condition where thyroid gland becomes over reactive initially. About half of affected women progress to transient hypothyroidism which normally subsides within a couple of months. Hypothyroidism becomes permanent only in about 5% of women.

Birth control pills, fluctuations of estrogen during the perimenopause and menopause could trigger Hashimoto’s disease and hypothyroid symptoms in women. Excess estrogen inhibits thyroid action, lowers the rate of metabolism and contributes to hypothyroidism. In the opposite case, progesterone supports thyroid function.

An adequate amount of iodine is necessary for the thyroid gland to function and produce thyroid hormones. Both excess and deficiency of iodine are common causes of hypothyroidism and enlargement of the thyroid gland. When not enough iodine comes from the diet then the person may become hypothyroid or subclinicaly hypothyroid.

Excessive iodine can trigger autoimmune thyroid disease Hashimoto’s thyroiditis in genetically susceptible individuals and cause permanent damage to the thyroid gland. Excess of iodine in the diet can stimulate the immune system to create antibodies that attack the thyroid gland. As a result, the thyroid starts to produce less hormones and with time hypothyroidism may occur.

High iodine intake through the diet has been found to increase the incidence of clinical hypothyroidism. Iodine is concentrated in the thyroglobulin within the thyroid gland. After the ingestion of large amounts of iodine with the diet the production of pro-inflammatory free radicals significantly increases and the synthesis of hormones within the thyroid gland becomes impaired causing transient hypothyroidism.

Contamination of food and water supplies with chemical agent perchlorate could contribute to thyroid problems in susceptible individuals. Perchlorate blocks iodine uptake in the thyroid gland and may increase the risk for subclinical hypothyroidism especially in the women with low iodine levels.

Radioiodine treatment and thyroidectomy used for treatment of hyperthyroidism are less common causes of underactive thyroid in women. Whole body irradiation and external radiotherapy of the head and neck could cause damage to the thyroid gland and result in hypothyroidism.

Use of various drugs could cause hypothyroidism. Common medication for bipolar disorder lithium inhibits the release of the thyroid hormones contributing to the development of hypothyroidism and goiter. Lithium and interferons could also initiate chronic autoimmune thyroiditis with hypothyroidism. The iodine containing drug amiodarone and contract agents have been also shown to cause hypothyroidism.

Success of your hypothyroidism treatment will depend on how effectively your doctor can identify and correct what causing it. Watch this FREE Presentation why it is absolutely necessary to make a proper diagnosis.


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