How hyperthyroidism symptoms differ in males and females

17 April 2023 dot 5-minute read
Healthy Body Feature Live Well Hyperthyroidism symptoms Illnesses and diseases
Hyperthyroidism occurs when you have an overactive thyroid, the small, butterfly-shaped gland at the base of your neck. (Credit: Shutterstock)
The thyroid, a small, butterfly-shaped gland in your neck, controls how your body uses energy. It affects almost all your organs and plays a crucial role in your brain function. When this gland becomes overactive, it leads to hyperthyroidism symptoms.
Hyperthyroidism occurs when your body produces too many thyroid hormones. This speeds up many of your body's functions, causing physical, emotional and mental health issues.
An overactive thyroid can occur in males and females, although the latter are at higher risk. Both can experience the same symptoms, but some are sex specific.

Hyperthyroidism symptoms

Your thyroid makes at least two hormones, thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). Excess production of T4 and T3 accelerates the body's metabolism, leading to physiological symptoms. This hormonal imbalance can also make you feel nervous, anxious, irritable and tense.
The following physiological and psychological symptoms may occur in males and females.

Physiological symptoms of hyperthyroidism

  • Heart palpitations
  • Rapid pulse
  • Tremor
  • Hair loss
  • Nail changes
  • Muscle weakness
  • Weight loss
  • Heat intolerance
  • Frequent bowel movement
  • Increased perspiration
  • Thyroid gland enlargement (goitre)

Psychological symptoms of hyperthyroidism

  • Nervousness
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Difficulty in sleeping
  • Difficulty with concentration
  • Short-term memory lapses
  • Lack of interest
  • Mental alertness
In older adults, symptoms of hyperthyroidism, like loss of appetite or social withdrawal, can easily be mistaken for depression or dementia.

Why hyperthyroidism is prevalent in female

Hyperthyroidism occurs when you have an overactive thyroid, the small, butterfly-shaped gland at the base of your neck. (Credit: Shutterstock)
Thyroid diseases are more prevalent in females. A review in the Italian Journal of Gender-Specific Medicine suggests the reasons may be excess oestrogen production and the repeated fluctuation of hormone levels during the reproductive cycle.
Hyperthyroidism in females can cause:
  • fewer and lighter periods than normal
  • infertility since a thyroid in overdrive can prevent ovulation
  • severe morning sickness in pregnant women
  • signs of early menopause like hot flushes and mood swings
Hormonal changes during pregnancy and the overuse of thyroid hormone replacement therapy increase the risk of developing hyperthyroidism. In addition, females are susceptible to autoimmune diseases, such as Graves' disease, the most common cause of hyperthyroidism seen in females more than males.
Graves' disease causes the immune system to attack the thyroid's healthy tissue. Although researchers don't know precisely why this autoimmune disease develops in some people, they believe it's due to a combination of genetics and outside factors like viruses.
Hyperthyroidism also raises a female's risk for osteoporosis, making her susceptible to bone fracture. An overactive thyroid can affect bone health before other symptoms appear, especially in menopausal women.
Since thyroid diseases are more prevalent in females, hyperthyroidism symptoms in men are often overlooked. Aside from the condition's common symptoms, men may experience low testosterone levels, a lower libido, sexual dysfunction and premature ejaculation.

Treating an overactive thyroid

Doctors suggest eating fresh vegetables high in B vitamins and iron to help reduce hyperthyroidism symptoms. (Credit: Shutterstock)
Your healthcare provider will recommend treatment depending on the cause of your overactive thyroid. When left untreated, hyperthyroidism can cause serious problems with your heart, bones, muscles and fertility. But you can manage many of the risks associated with the condition with the guidance of your doctor.
Hyperthyroidism treatment aims to restore your thyroid hormone levels and help prevent long-term health issues. Treatments for hyperthyroidism are sex-dependent and may include medication, radioactive iodine therapy or thyroid surgery.
A healthy lifestyle can help manage the symptoms.
  • Consume a healthy diet to prevent weight loss.
  • Practise regular exercise to avoid muscle weakness.
  • Avoid foods high in iodine since these make hyperthyroidism worse
  • Stay away from possible triggers like caffeine, soda, alcohol and nicotine
  • Get adequate sleep to reduce stress
It's important to take prescribed medications and keep up with monitoring your hormone levels with your endocrinologist. Also, report any side effects of prescribed drugs to your healthcare provider.
Consider investing in a medical protection plan if you have a family history of thyroid disease, particularly Graves' disease. It can protect you against rising healthcare costs and safeguard you against unexpected medical expenses.
If any of the hyperthyroidism symptoms mentioned feel familiar, bookmark this article to guide you in discussing your concerns with your primary care physician.
Medline Plus. 2021. Hyperthyroidism. [online]  [Accessed on 7 December 2021]
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. 2021. Grave's Disease. [online]  [Accessed on 7 December 2021]
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. 2021. Hyperthyroidism (Overactive Thyroid). [online]  [Accessed on 7 December 2022]
Bipolar Disorders. 2014. Gender differences in thyroid system function: relevance to bipolar disorder and its treatment. [online]  [Accessed on 7 December 2022]
The Italian Journal of Gender-Specific Medicine. 2019. Thyroid diseases and gender. [online]  [Accessed on 7 December 2022]
Office on Women's Health. 2021. Thyroid disease. [online]  [Accessed on 7 December 2022]
John Hopkins Medicine. Thyroid Disorders in Women. [online]  [Accessed on 7 December 2022]
Lancet. 2016. Hyperthyroidism. [online]  [Accessed on 7 December 2022]
National Academies Press (US). 2003. Medicare Coverage of Routine Screening for Thyroid Dysfunction. [online]  [Accessed on 8 December 2022]
British Thyroid Foundation. 2018. Psychological symptoms and thyroid disorders. [online]  [Accessed on 8 December 2022]
Penn Medicine. 2019. How Thyroid Problems Might be Hurting Your Sex Life. [online]  [Accessed on 8 December 2022]

This is general information only and is not intended as financial, medical, health, nutritional or other advice. You should obtain professional advice from a financial adviser, or medical or health practitioner in relation to your own personal circumstances.

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