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Thyroids and Fibroids: How are these two diseases connected?

December 29,2022

January is Thyroid Awareness Month, and Fibroid Fighters wants to encourage and empower women to take care of their bodies.

Being aware of possible diseases and conditions and potential treatments is one of the best things a woman can do for herself.  With names that sound so similar, one may wonder if fibroids and thyroids are in the same “family” of health conditions a person with a uterus may face. While these conditions do rhyme, they actually affect the body in entirely different places. A fibroid, otherwise known as a uterine fibroid, is located in or on the walls of a woman’s uterus. Thyroid disease affects the person’s thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland in a person’s neck, just above the collarbone. 

In the photos below, you can see the complete difference in the placement of both health conditions on a person. 

Thyroids

A person’s thyroid produces hormones that help them perform their bodily activities, such as how fast their body burns calories or their heart rate. It may even affect your body temperature, breathing, heart rate, strength, cholesterol levels, central nervous system, and peripheral nervous system.

Fibroids

Fibroids are hard, compact tumors located in or around the uterus, composed of smooth muscle cells and fibroid connective tissue that range in size from a seed to a melon. You can have one or more fibroids, and while many people experience debilitating symptoms, others do not. You may be familiar with some of the symptoms of fibroids.

According to studies, uterine fibroids occur in 17.6% of women with thyroid nodules.

National Institute of Health

Fibroid Symptoms

The symptoms of fibroids may be something you’re familiar with. 

  • Heavy and prolonged periods
  • Anemia
  • Fatigue
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Frequent urination
  • Constipation and/or bloating
  • Pain in your pelvis or lower back
  • Increased menstrual cramping
  • Stomach swelling

Some women feel all these symptoms, while others feel slim to none. Others may have these symptoms but may simply be dealing with them thinking they’re “not a big deal.” It’s true that most fibroids aren’t cancerous, but if you’re experiencing these symptoms and they’re affecting your ability to live your quality of life, it may be time to see a doctor. 

Fibroid Fighters wants to encourage women to see their doctors and seek out all necessary health tests to ensure they live the healthiest and happy versions of themselves. Through education and sharing our stories, our mission is to empower women with information about symptoms and treatment options, so they have a voice in their care.

Thyroid Disease Symptoms

 Thyroid disease refers to a number of conditions that affect how the gland functions. The thyroid can be either overactive or underactive and both conditions can lead to health problems. Two of the most common thyroid diseases are hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism.

HYPERTHYROIDISM

Also known as overactive thyroid disease, this condition occurs when your thyroid gland produces excess levels of the thyroid hormone thyroxine. This thyroid disease can increase your body’s metabolism, causing weight loss and an irregular heartbeat. 

HYPOTHYROIDISM

Having an underactive thyroid is also known as hypothyroidism. Essentially, this condition occurs when the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).

Women are more likely to be affected than men by hypothyroidism due to the hormones produced. For every eight women, at least one will likely have some form of thyroid disease.1

Hypothyroidism’s deficiency of thyroid hormones can disrupt things such as heart rate, body temperature, and all aspects of metabolism. Major symptoms include fatigue, cold sensitivity, constipation, dry skin, and unexplained weight gain.

Symptoms of thyroid disease can include:

Symptoms of thyroid disease can include:

There are also multiple sorts of thyroid problems which include:

Goiter, which is when the thyroid gland largens in size

Hypothyroidism, as mentioned above, is when the gland does not produce enough hormones

Hyperthyroidism, the opposite of hypothyroidism, is when the gland produces too many hormones

Thyroid cancer, which are cancerous tumors located on or in the thyroid gland

Thyroid nodules, also known as lumps in the thyroid

Thyroiditis2, which is the swelling of the thyroid

Overlapping Symptoms between Fibroid and Thyroid Disease

Only one symptom overlaps with both diseases: abnormal, heavy menstrual bleeding, which can also lead to fatigue and anemia, regardless if it comes from thyroid disease or uterine fibroids. Despite this fact, it’s vital to ensure you’re in good health if you’re showing any symptoms- whether it comes from the thyroid or the fibroid side.

You may try to treat the symptoms of your heavy menstrual bleeding, such as taking ibuprofen or heat pads. Both are suitable methods, but it’s important to consider getting to the root cause of these symptoms. 

Risk Factors

The risk factors in women for fibroids tend to be biologically related, including those in your family who have had fibroids and have a high BMI, and lifestyle factors such as drinking alcohol and taking birth control pills.

However, the risk factors for thyroids have a common symptom of fibroids: anemia. So if you have had fibroids, you may also be at risk for thyroids. 

Not to mention, uterine fibroids and thyroid nodules are both influenced by estrogen and are prevalent illnesses in women of reproductive age. According to the National Institute of Health, women who have uterine fibroids are more likely to develop thyroid goiters and thyroid nodules.

Pregnancy Problems

Considering that hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism are issues that relate to the number of hormones being produced and prolonged menstruation, it’s quite possible that thyroid disease can affect your ability to get pregnant. 

And because fibroids are on the uterus and also prolong menstruation, fibroids can cause pregnancy complications just the same. 

Treatments

There are multiple treatments for uterine fibroids, such as:

  • Uterine Fibroid Embolization – a minimally invasive treatment with quick recovery times
  • Hysterectomy – an invasive surgery that fully or partially removes the uterus
  • Myomectomy – an invasive surgery that removes the tumors
  • Laparoscopic procedures
  • Hormone medications
  • Endometrial ablation

Thyroid disease treatments truly depend on the sort of problem a person may have. Issues such as hypothyroidism is normally treated with hormone medications. However, hyperthyroidism may need more action, such as radioiodine, surgery, and medicine.

Awareness

If you suspect you have either fibroid or thyroid disease, it’s important to visit your healthcare provider.

To stay informed about women’s health, fibroid treatment and care subscribe to our newsletter.

  1. https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/thyroid-disease
  2. https://medlineplus.gov/thyroiddiseases.html

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