Thyroid Symptoms in Men: An Informative Symptom Guide

Thyroid symptoms in men? How? Yes, men do suffer from thyroid diseases1 as well. Even though women are more likely than males to develop thyroid disease, this does not indicate that men are immune.

Thyroid symptoms in men are determined by whether they have an overactive or underactive thyroid, hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, respectively.

What is the Thyroid Gland?

The thyroid gland is a small butterfly-shaped gland in the neck. It is present just in front of the windpipe or the trachea and is rich in blood vessels and has two lobes. A bridge called an isthmus connects these two lobes.

The thyroid produces several vital hormones collectively called thyroid hormones. According to the American Thyroid Association, it “essentially runs the body furnace.”

About the Thyroid Hormones

Iodine from meals is used by the thyroid gland to produce hormones. These 2 thyroid hormones are triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4)2. These hormones are also stored in the body and released as needed.

Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) is a hormone that is secreted by the pituitary gland that stimulates the thyroid to make thyroxine and later triiodothyronine, which helps to determine the functioning and effectiveness of these hormones.

T3 and T4 are two hormones that work together to control how your body uses energy. These hormones also play a role in weight management, body temperature regulation, muscle strength, metabolism, mood affection, and nervous system regulation.

Thyroid Symptoms in Men

Thyroid dysfunction is caused by any alteration in the normal functioning of this gland hence, giving rise to thyroid disorders. Thyroid dysfunction has two types, as mentioned above that is hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism.3

Depending upon whether the thyroid is overactive or underactive, symptoms vary in terms of gender and from person to person. Men tend to dismiss the notion that they may have thyroid disease because it is less common in men.

Men may experience thyroid symptoms that are similar to those experienced by women. However, a few gender-specific signs can only be seen in men and are distinct to their gender.

32929598 thyroid self exam checkup young man touching his neck at home bathroom doing self check of his thyroid gland looking at mirror for early signs of health problem
Photo by Maridav/ Unlim Photos/thyroid disease

Symptoms of thyroid disorders in men can include:

  1. Fatigue and weakness
  2. Weight gain or loss
  3. Cold intolerance or feeling too hot
  4. Depression and mood swings
  5. Changes in libido
  6. Hair loss
  7. Joint and muscle pain
  8. Irregular menstrual cycles
  9. Increased cholesterol levels
  10. Constipation.

It’s important to note that some symptoms may be mild and go unnoticed, while others may be more severe. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s recommended to see a healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

1. Hyperthyroidism or an Overactive Thyroid Gland

Hyperthyroidism is when your thyroid gland produces more thyroid hormones than your body requires.

Many of your body’s activities speed up when you have too much thyroid hormone, especially thyroxine, due to an overactive thyroid.

A few causes of an overactive thyroid:

  • Graves’ disease, the most common cause of hyperthyroidism

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    , is an autoimmune disorder. Our immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid and causes it to make too much thyroid hormone.

  • Inflammation of the thyroid gland or thyroiditis.

  • Consuming a large amount of iodine.

  • Overactive thyroid nodules.

  • A benign tumour of the pituitary gland.

  • Some people suffering from hypothyroidism may take too much thyroid hormone, which may lead to hyperthyroidism. Hence, a blood test is suggested to monitor thyroid levels.

  • A family history of a thyroid disorder or any other autoimmune condition is also considered to cause hyperthyroidism.

Thyroid Symptoms In Men
Photo Scott/ Unlim Photos/thyroid disease can cause hair loss

Symptoms of an overactive thyroid are common in both men and women:

  1. Unexpected weight even thought though eating habits and hunger are unchanged.

  2. Fatigue arises from losing muscle mass and strength, resulting in a lack of energy and a sluggish and sleepy feeling.

  3. Hair loss is common, and the remaining hair is thinned and brittle.

  4. Hyperthyroidism is characterized by rapid heartbeats and palpitations, which can occur even while sleeping. Heartbeats could be as high as 100 per minute.

  5. Sweating

  6. Anxiety or nervousness

  7. As a result of apprehension, sleeping is difficult

  8. Intolerance to heat and cold

  9. Having a lot of bowel movements

  10. Tremors, or trembling hands and fingers

  11. Swelling at the base of the neck as a result of an enlarged thyroid

  12. Rarely, protrusion of the eye may be seen

  13. Sexual dysfunction or decrease in sex drive

  14. Osteoporosis 

Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism that are Specific to the Male Gender:

Though most of the symptoms are identical to both men and women, there are a few complications that are unique to men.

Overactive Thyroid Symptoms in Men:

  1. Premature balding

  2. Erectile dysfunction- This is a general sexual complaint of men in which they are unable to maintain a firm and erect penis for sufficient sexual intercourse. Erectile Dysfunction is otherwise known as Impotence.

  3. Gynecomastia or male breast enlargement

  4. Premature ejaculation- This is another frequently arising sexual complaint that men face irrespective of thyroid problems. Premature ejaculation occurs when a man ejaculates earlier than he or his partner would want during sexual intercourse.

  5. A low sperm count

    Most of the symptoms of male hyperthyroidism are a result of hormonal imbalances and a decreased level of testosterone hence, interfering with men’s sexual health.

2. Hypothyroidism or an Underactive Thyroid Gland:

Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland is unable to produce sufficient or enough hormones and creates an imbalance in the body’s functions.

Being a woman is considered one of the significant risk factors for hypothyroidism, making men less susceptible to this thyroid condition. The reason for females being at a higher risk of developing hypothyroidism is not yet known.

Hypothyroidism occurs due to an autoimmune condition in which our immunity misidentifies and targets normal bodily parts, mistaking them for foreign invaders.

The autoimmune disease that usually causes an underactive thyroid is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. In Hashimoto’s thyroiditis5, the immune system attacks the thyroid gland, causing hypothyroidism.

Other Causes of Hypothyroidism

  • Post-thyroid surgery

  • Over-responsiveness to hyperthyroidism treatment

  • Hormone deficiency

  • Patients with hyperthyroidism undergoing Radiation therapy

  • Iodine deficiency

  • Thyroid cancer

  • Certain medications

Hypothyroidism may not cause noticeable symptoms in the early stage. Still, untreated hypothyroidism may lead to severe health problems. These may include heart disease, kidney disease, goitre, myxoedema coma, and a few others.

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

Underactive Thyroid Symptoms in Men:

  1. Weight gain occurs rapidly without any significant change in diet and appetite. Men may tend to ignore this symptom owing to the long work sedentary work hours.

  2. A constant feeling of tiredness

  3. Constipation

  4. Anxiety and depression

  5. Thinning hair

  6. Brittle nails

  7. A slow heart rate

  8. An enlarged thyroid gland or goitre

  9. Painful, stiff, and swollen joints

  10. Puffy face

  11. Dry skin- Men usually are not concerned much about the way their skin feels. But underactive thyroiditis draws their attention to this scaly and patchy skin.

  12. Elevated cholesterol levels. If these levels are raised too high, severe complications like stroke, coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, elevated blood pressure, and peripheral vascular disease

    6

    (PVD) may occur. Even if these are rare, but are medical emergencies.

  13. Feeling cold all the time

  14. Men may also face trouble growing facial hair

  15. Memory impairment

  16. Delayed ejaculation

  17. Interference in men’s sexual health and, therefore, affecting their fertility

Does Hyperthyroidism affect male fertility? - Dr. Basavaraj Devarashetty

Pregnancy and menstrual abnormalities affect women and are very common.

Diagnosis: Thyroid Symptoms in Men

Thyroid disease vaguely affects men making diagnosis difficult. Most hypothyroidism symptoms do not appear immediately away. Thyroid hormone levels need to be abnormally low for symptoms to occur. Hence, diagnosing thyroid symptoms in men might be challenging.

The healthcare provider should do a physical exam, and blood tests are required to check the hormonal levels of the thyroid.

Diagnosis of thyroid disorders usually involves:

  1. Physical exam: Checking for signs of an enlarged thyroid (goitre) or changes in skin, hair, or nails.
  2. Blood tests: To measure levels of thyroid hormones and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).
  3. Imaging tests: Ultrasound, CT, or MRI scans to assess the size and structure of the thyroid gland.
  4. Biopsy: In some cases, a biopsy of the thyroid tissue may be taken to diagnose or rule out certain conditions.

Based on the results of these tests, a healthcare provider can diagnose and determine the type of thyroid disorder and recommend the best course of treatment.

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Photo by Testalize. me on Unsplash

A medical history should be made. Noting points such as a family history of thyroid issues, age above 40 years, and type 2 diabetes play an essential role in making men more prone to developing symptoms of thyroid disease.

Other imaging tests like the Radioactive iodine uptake (RAI-U) test, Ultrasound, Computed tomography (CT), and Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be done to rule out goitre or thyroiditis.

Treatment Options for Thyroid Symptoms in Men

1. Hyperthyroidism Treatment

  • Radioactive iodine: To reduce the size of the thyroid gland and lower hormone production.

In this technique, an isotope of iodine that is radioactive iodine I-131 is used. It emits radiation. It primarily gets collected in the thyroid gland. Here, it inhibits the function of the thyroid gland and other thyroid hormones also including the cancerous cells. It has a negligible effect on the rest of the body.

  • Medications: Anti-thyroid medication to limit the thyroid function

  • Hormone therapy: Thyroid hormone replacement therapy: To replace the hormones your body isn’t producing enough of.

  • Surgery: Removal of a part of the entire thyroid can halt hormone production hence, relieving symptoms.

  • Beta-blockers: To control symptoms such as rapid heartbeat and sweating.

2. Hypothyroidism Treatment for thyroid symptoms in men

Treatment options for hypothyroidism include:

  • Thyroid hormone replacement therapy: To replace the hormones your body isn’t producing enough of, typically with levothyroxine.
  • Monitoring: Regular check-ups to monitor hormone levels and adjust medication doses as needed.
  • Artificial forms of thyroid hormone-like levothyroxine. 

It’s important to take thyroid hormone replacement therapy as directed and to have regular check-ups with a healthcare provider to ensure the right dose is being taken and to monitor for any potential side effects.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 

1. What are the symptoms of thyroid imbalance in males?

Symptoms of thyroid imbalance in males can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Mood changes (irritability, depression)
  • Muscle weakness
  • Hair loss
  • Cold intolerance or sensitivity to heat
  • Decreased libido
  • Constipation
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Joint or muscle pain

2. Do men get thyroid problems? If so, what will be the result of the problem? Is there a cure? 

Yes, men can get thyroid problems. The most common thyroid problems in men are hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) and hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid).

Hypothyroidism can cause fatigue, weight gain, cold intolerance, dry skin, and depression. Hyperthyroidism can cause weight loss, rapid heart rate, tremors, sweating, and nervousness.

There is no cure for thyroid problems, but they can be managed with medications such as hormone replacement therapy (for hypothyroidism) and anti-thyroid medication (for hyperthyroidism).

In some cases, surgery may also be required to remove the thyroid gland. It is important to work with a doctor to determine the best treatment plan.

3. What are the signs of thyroid problems/thyroid symptoms in men?

Signs of thyroid problems can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Mood changes (irritability, depression)
  • Hair loss
  • Cold intolerance or sensitivity to heat
  • Sweating
  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Muscle weakness
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Nervousness or anxiety

It is important to note that symptoms can vary depending on whether the thyroid is underactive or overactive, and may be mistaken for other health problems. A doctor can perform tests to diagnose a thyroid problem.

4. What is an overactive thyroid? What are the symptoms?

An overactive thyroid, also known as hyperthyroidism, is a condition in which the thyroid gland produces too much of the hormone thyroxine. This can speed up the body’s metabolism, leading to various symptoms.

Symptoms of hyperthyroidism can include:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Sweating
  • Nervousness or anxiety
  • Weight loss
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability or mood changes
  • Tremors or shakiness in the hands
  • Increased appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Menstrual irregularities in women

It is important to see a doctor if you are experiencing any of these symptoms as untreated hyperthyroidism can lead to more serious health problems.

The doctor can perform tests to diagnose hyperthyroidism and determine the best course of treatment.

5. How does hypothyroidism affect testosterone in young men?

Hypothyroidism can affect testosterone levels in young men, leading to decreased testosterone production. The thyroid gland helps regulate the metabolism, and when it is underactive (hypothyroidism), it can cause hormonal imbalances that affect testosterone production.

Low testosterone levels can result in symptoms such as decreased muscle mass, decreased sex drive, and fatYoung men with hypothyroidism need to work with a doctor to monitor their testosterone levels and address any potential hormonal imbalances.

Treatment for hypothyroidism, such as hormone replacement therapy, can help improve testosterone levels and manage symptoms.

However, testosterone replacement therapy may also be needed to address low testosterone levels.

6. What problems can an underactive thyroid cause?

An underactive thyroid, also known as hypothyroidism, can cause a variety of symptoms and health problems, including:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Cold intolerance
  • Dry skin
  • Depression
  • Constipation
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Cholesterol levels
  • Decreased sex drive

If left untreated, hypothyroidism can also lead to more serious health problems such as heart disease and cognitive decline.

It is important to see a doctor if you are experiencing symptoms of an underactive thyroid, as treatment with hormone replacement therapy can help manage the condition and prevent further complications.

Closing Thoughts

In a nutshell, it is necessary to identify and treat thyroid symptoms in men at the right time. Men tend to ignore thyroid problems even if they present with classic symptoms of hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.

This happens because the thyroid symptoms in men which are not very severe including hair, nails, and skin, don’t occupy or disturb men as much as they do women. 

Even depressed mood and anxiety they suffer, might not be noticeable because it is usually considered a consequence of workload. The problem arises when severe symptoms start presenting and by that time, it is too late.

Men and women exhibit some common symptoms, as seen above. However, thyroid symptoms in specific men should be taken into consideration and treated accordingly.

  1. Prummel, Mark F., Thea Strieder, and Wilmar M. Wiersinga. “The environment and autoimmune thyroid diseases.” European Journal of Endocrinology 150.5 (2004): 605-618. ↩︎
  2. Braverman, Lewis E., Sidney H. Ingbar, and Kenneth Sterling. “Conversion of thyroxine (T4) to triiodothyronine (T3) in athyreotic human subjects.” The Journal of clinical investigation 49.5 (1970): 855-864. ↩︎
  3. Taylor, Peter N., et al. “Global epidemiology of hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism.” Nature Reviews Endocrinology 14.5 (2018): 301-316. ↩︎
  4. Kravets, Igor. “Hyperthyroidism: diagnosis and treatment.” American family physician 93.5 (2016): 363-370. ↩︎
  5. Ragusa, Francesca, et al. “Hashimotos’ thyroiditis: Epidemiology, pathogenesis, clinic and therapy.” Best Practice & Research Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 33.6 (2019): 101367. ↩︎
  6. Baumgartner, I., R. Schainfeld, and L. Graziani. “Management of peripheral vascular disease.” Annu. Rev. Med. 56 (2005): 249-272. ↩︎

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