Thyroid disease in men has many of the same symptoms as women with thyroid disease. Men, however, may also experience some manifestations of thyroid problems unique to their gender, some of which you may not immediately associate with the condition, such as a low sperm count, muscle loss, and erectile dysfunction.
Many men do not believe that they have a thyroid disorder , even if they have the classic symptoms. This may be due in part to the fact that women are 10 times more likely to have thyroid disease than men .
5 common misconceptions about thyroid disease
For the most part, men and women experience similar symptoms when it comes to thyroid disease.
Hashimoto's disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid gland) in the United States. This autoimmune disease causes your immune system to attack and destroy your thyroid gland, and it tends to be inherited. Research shows that up to four out of every 1,000 men in the United States have hypothyroidism .
Common symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- Weight gain
- Rough and dry skin
- I am cold
- Joint pain
- Muscle pain or stiffness
- Memory problems
- Hair loss
- Enlarged thyroid gland
Graves' disease, another autoimmune thyroid disorder, is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid gland). You can develop hypothyroidism after treatment.
Graves' disease is relatively rare in men, about 1 in 10,000. In women, this rate is almost eight times higher .
Common symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:
- Feeling nervous or anxious
- Faster heart beat
- Increased appetite
- Trouble sleeping
- Muscular weakness
- Enlarged thyroid gland
Symptoms in men.
Men with thyroid dysfunction may have symptoms that are more common in men. From them:
- Baldness / hair loss
- Decreased sexual desire
- Decrease in testosterone levels.
- Gynecomastia , male breast enlargement (hyperthyroidism )
- Loss of muscle mass and / or strength.
Interestingly, men with hyperthyroidism have a higher risk of hip fractures than women .
The thyroid gland affects sexual function in both men and women, although this may be more apparent in men. Therefore, men with thyroid disease may also experience the following sexual health-related symptoms:
- erectile dysfunction
- Delayed ejaculation (more common in hypothyroidism)
- Premature ejaculation (more common with hyperthyroidism)
- Sperm problems that can lead to infertility, such as lower sperm count, lower sperm quality, lower semen volume, and lower sperm motility.
A 2018 review published in Sexual Medicine Review reported that 59% to 63% of men with hypothyroidism experienced decreased libido , erectile dysfunction , and delayed ejaculation . Among men with hyperthyroidism, 48% to 77% had decreased libido, erectile dysfunction, and premature ejaculation .
These are significant numbers. Fortunately, the review also found that treating the underlying thyroid disorder significantly improved sexual dysfunction in both men and women.
The researchers also pointed out that since many of the patients in these studies were under the age of 40, an underlying thyroid disorder could be an explanation for sexual dysfunction in young adults, especially young adults.
Regardless of gender, the diagnosis of thyroid disease is the same. Unfortunately, health professionals tend to ignore thyroid symptoms in men because thyroid dysfunction is less common than in women.
Because thyroid disease generally affects men over the age of 40 and many symptoms are generalized and vague, healthcare providers often associate symptoms with erectile dysfunction, weight problems, and age.
If your healthcare provider suspects that you have a thyroid problem, they will discuss your medical history and symptoms with you, perform a physical exam, and order several blood tests to check your thyroid hormone levels.
Thyroid Discussion Guide for Healthcare Professionals
Get our printed guide to your next doctor's appointment to help you ask the right questions.
Imaging tests are commonly used to look for signs of thyroid disease, such as goiter and an enlarged thyroid gland (hyperplasia). The remedies used may differ depending on whether you have hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism.
If hyperthyroidism is suspected, imaging tests may also be prescribed, such as:
If hypothyroidism is suspected, your doctor may order an ultrasound, but it is unlikely that you will need other imaging tests unless he or she believes that the hypothyroidism is caused by a pituitary or brain problem known as central hypothyroidism.
Treatment for thyroid disease depends on whether you have hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.
Treatment for hyperthyroidism usually begins with an antithyroid medicine. Once your thyroid gland returns to normal, you can stop taking your medications, at least temporarily, or you may need to take them for a long time.
Other treatment options include removal of radioactive iodine, which destroys thyroid tissue, and thyroidectomy, which is surgery to remove part or all of the thyroid gland. Both treatments ultimately lead to hypothyroidism.
Having hypothyroidism means that you will take thyroid hormone replacement medications, usually Synthroid, Tirosint, or Unithroid (levothyroxine), a synthetic form of T4. It will be a treatment for life.
If levothyroxine doesn't help control your symptoms, your healthcare provider may add cytomel (liothyronine), a synthetic form of T3. Another option is to take dehydrated thyroid extract (DTE), a prescription drug that is made from the pig's thyroid gland and contains both T3 and T4.
If you have problems with sexual dysfunction and have just been diagnosed with a thyroid disorder, please be patient . Treating thyroid disorders significantly improves sexual problems for most people. However, it may take a while for the thyroid to return to normal function.
If you find that you still have problems with erectile dysfunction, decreased libido, delayed ejaculation, or premature ejaculation even after thyroid treatment and feel better otherwise, talk to your doctor about other problems. factors that may be causing your problems.
If you have already been diagnosed with a thyroid disorder but still have problems, sexual or otherwise, your treatment may not be enough. Talk to your doctor about optimizing your treatment to suit your individual thyroid hormone levels.
Frequently asked questions
What does the thyroid gland do?
The thyroid gland secretes two hormones, triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), which help control various functions in your body. These functions include metabolism, muscle control, and mood.
Are there risk factors that increase your chances of having thyroid problems?
Women are more likely to have thyroid-related diseases than men, but other factors can increase the risk of thyroid problems. These include a family history of thyroid disease, having an autoimmune disease such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, excessive iodine intake (with food or medication), being over the age of 60, and a history of thyroid problems or thyroid cancer.
Get the word of drug information
The key to remember about thyroid disease is that it usually, but not always, gets worse. Since it can affect various organs in your body, it is important to consider all the symptoms you are experiencing. These symptoms can easily be attributed to age, but most men can sense when the condition is abnormal or worsens.
If you suspect that you have a thyroid disorder, it is important that you consult a qualified healthcare professional. If you suffer from sexual or erectile dysfunction, be sure to do a complete thyroid gland exam, if only to rule out thyroid disease as the cause.