Understanding Autoimmune Thyroid Disease
Hypothyroidism Symptoms in Men
Find out why hypothyroidism is much less common in men than in women, and why it's important to get treatment.
By Chris Iliades, MD
Medically Reviewed by Farrokh Sohrabi, MD
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Hypothyroidism means you have an underactive thyroid gland.
Although hypothyroidism is more common in women, men get it, too. Your thyroid gland is shaped like a bow tie and lies in the front of your neck, just about where a bow tie would sit.
The function of your thyroid is to make thyroid hormone and pump it out into your blood so it can be distributed to all the organs in your body.
You could think of thyroid gland as your body's energy company. When it becomes underactive, everything starts to slow down.
Why Is Hypothyroidism Less Common in Men?
"Hypothyroidism is about eight to 10 times less common in men. That's because 80 percent of hypothyroidism is caused by autoimmune disease, and autoimmune diseases are more common in women. If I knew why autoimmune diseases are more common in women, I would win the Nobel Prize," said Mario Skugor, MD, an endocrinologist at the Cleveland Clinic.
An autoimmune disease happens when your body's defense system, called your immune system, mistakes normal parts of your body for foreign invaders and attacks them. The autoimmune disease that usually causes hypothyroidism in women and men is Hashimoto's thyroiditis.
In Hashimoto's, your immune system attacks your thyroid gland. Hashimoto's thyroiditis affects about 14 million Americans, of which about two million are men.
"Other causes of hypothyroidism in men include damage to the thyroid or removal of the thyroid during surgery for thyroid tumors, and treatments for an overactive thyroid that result in an underactive thyroid.
"Graves' disease is a cause of hyperthyroidism that may require treatments that leave a person with hypothyroidism. Graves disease is also more common in women," said Dr. Skugor.
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism in Men
"The symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of hypothyroidism in men are about the same as in women. Hypothyroidism slows down your whole metabolism, so symptoms can affect any organ system," Skugor said.
The most common symptoms are:
Loss of interest in sex and trouble having erections are symptoms that some men may have. "If you are tired and low on energy, it's not surprising that you will have some loss of interest in sex," says Skugor.
A recent study published in the Urology Journal compared 24 men with hypothyroidism to 66 men without hypothyroidism.
Erectile dysfunction (ED) was evaluated using the International Index of Erectile Function Questionnaire, which rates ED on a scale from 5 (severe ED) to 25 (no ED).
The men with hypothyroidism had an average score of 11.75 compared to men without hypothyroidism who averaged 20.81.
Getting the Diagnosis and Treatment You Need
"Most symptoms of hypothyroidism do not develop right away. The thyroid hormone level must be overly low," said Skugor. Men and their doctors need to be aware of the possibility of hypothyroidism in men so that getting a diagnosis isn't delayed.
Your doctor may suspect hypothyroidism if you have symptoms and signs during a physical examination. The most reliable test for diagnosing hypothyroidism is thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). This hormone tells your thyroid to make more thyroid hormone if your thyroid is becoming underactive.
"Treatment for hypothyroidism is replacement of thyroid hormone. Some men may not want to take medication, but thyroid hormone is more like a supplement. It is something your body naturally needs. The amount you need to take is based on your weight, so men may need to take higher doses than women," said Skugor.
If you have symptoms of hypothyroidism, talk to your doctor. Men get hypothyroidism less than women, but you need to get treated just the same. Once you have hypothyroidism, you usually have it for life. With early diagnosis and treatment, thyroid hormone replacement is a safe and effective treatment that can manage your symptoms and prevent complications.
Video: Hypothyroidism in Men - Hypothyroidism in Men Symptoms Checklist | Hypothyroidism Symptoms in Men
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