PCOS and Hypothyroidism
Every year, many women are diagnosed with PCOS. For
some of these women, suggested
PCOS guidelines may miss the mark. If this is the case for you, you may
have a condition called hypothyroidism.
It is not uncommon for women with PCOS to either also have
hypothyroidism in addition to PCOS, or they may have been misdiagnosed with
PCOS when they actually have an underactive thyroid gland. Hypothyroidism can lead to a reduction of sex hormone
binding globulin and increase in free testosterone. Free testosterone is one of the factors
contributing to PCOS symptoms -- infertility, polycystic ovaries, hirsuitism or
excessive growth of dark facial hair, male pattern hair loss, and acne.
The thyroid gland located at the base of your neck makes, stores, and releases two hormones - T4 (thyroxin) and T3 (triiodothyronine). Thyroid hormones control your metabolic rate. If there your body isn’t secreting enough thyroid hormones, your metabolism slows down.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism may include: fatigue or weakness, weight gain, menstrual problems, lower body temperature, cold extremities, inability to focus, constipation, depression, muscle aches, brittle nails, dry skin, and hair loss. As you can see many of the symptoms of hypothyroidism mimic the symptoms of Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome.
Physicians usually screen thyroid function by measuring TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone). TSH is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland; it lets your thyroid gland know whether it should be producing more thyroid hormone. If thyroid hormone levels are low, the pituitary sends out a TSH signal to the thyroid to produce more thyroid hormone. As thyroid hormone production drops, TSH usually increases. Therefore a higher than normal TSH level indicates a hypothyroid condition.
Unfortunately, TSH doesn’t always respond correctly to low thyroid hormone levels. If symptoms persist, and the TSH is in the normal range, the thyroid hormones (T4 and T3) should also be checked. In some cases, a diagnosis of hypothyroidism can be missed if TSH is the only hormone that is measured. If you have had your TSH tested and still question a PCOS diagnosis, make sure your doctor orders a T3 and T4 test for you to rule out hypothyroidism.
It is possible that you have a mild case of undiagnosed hypothyroidism. This may complicate your PCOS problems -- especially if you have a weight problem in spite of consistent efforts with diet and exercise. Because thyroid hormones dictate how fast or slow your metabolism is it can be very difficult or even impossible to lose weight if your metabolic rate is set on low speed. This may make exercise seem futile. Women with PCOS benefit greatly from sustained daily exercise. PCOS sometimes causes fatigue making it hard enough to sustain your exercise regimen, have yourself checked for hypothyroidism to prevent you from discontinuing exercise due to seeing little to no weight loss results.
Mild hypothyroidism can be difficult to diagnose and is often overlooked. Proper diagnosis may require: (1) lab tests more extensive than the typical TSH test; (2) a body temperature assessment over a period of time; and (3) a careful assessment of symptoms and medical history.
You may want to consider finding a licensed naturopathic physician in your area as they are well qualified to identify subtle hypothyroidism. They may treat you with an alternative to Pharmaceutical drugs to control your thyroid gland.
If you discover that you have an under active thyroid, you can also get that under control with medication. Your doctor can prescribe pharmaceutical medications to reverse the effects of a low functioning thyroid gland. Whichever route your choose addressing your thyroid gland issues will get your body working more efficiently. When you thyroid gland issues are addressed and your thyroid is working optimally some of your PCOS symptoms may also diminish.