Male Thyroid Problems

Male Thyroid Problems

Table of Contents

The thyroid gland is a small butterfly-shaped gland on the front of the throat. It produces hormones that affect energy use and metabolism of cells throughout the body. Because of this, an imbalance of thyroid hormones can produce a wide variety of symptoms.

Women are far more likely than men to suffer from problems with the thyroid. However, men certainly can also have thyroid problems.

Male thyroid problems symptoms

While many of the symptoms of thyroid problems in men are the same as those in women, others are specific to men. The symptoms of hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid, in men may include: 

  • Weight gain
  • Fatigue or low energy
  • Depression
  • Dry skin
  • Constipation
  • Erectile dysfunction or low libido
  • Hair loss
  • Low testosterone 
  • Muscle weakness

The symptoms of hyperthyroidism, or an overactive thyroid, in men may include:

  • Weight loss
  • Rapid heartbeat or heart palpitations
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Erectile dysfunction or low libido
  • Hair loss
  • Low testosterone 
  • Muscle weakness

As you can see, sexual problems, hair loss, muscle weakness, and low testosterone can be caused by either low or high levels of thyroid hormones. If you have any possible symptoms of hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism in men, you’ll need to get tested to find out what’s happening with your thyroid.

It’s also important to note that some men with thyroid issues may not notice any symptoms. One study found that only 91.3% of men with obvious hypothyroidism found on a blood test noticed any symptoms. The other 8.7% of the men weren’t aware of any symptoms. In the same study, about half of men with normal thyroid function reported at least one possible symptom of hypothyroidism, usually fatigue. 

What causes thyroid problems in males?

The potential causes of thyroid problems in men are the same as those in women. However, certain thyroid diseases in men are far less common than they are in women. For example, women suffer from autoimmune diseases more commonly than men do, including those that affect the thyroid.

Low thyroid in men

Some of the more common causes of hypothyroidism in males include:

  • Hashimoto’s disease, in which the body makes antibodies that damage the thyroid gland
  • Thyroid cancer
  • Thyroiditis, or inflammation of the thyroid gland
  • Surgery or other injuries to the thyroid
  • Certain medications

High thyroid in men

Some of the more common causes of hyperthyroidism in men include:

  • Graves disease, in which the body makes antibodies that stimulate the thyroid gland
  • Thyroid nodules, which are lumps of abnormal thyroid tissue
  • Thyroiditis, or inflammation of the thyroid gland
  • Plummers disease, in which there are thyroid nodules and enlargement of the thyroid; the cause of this disease is unknown

Male thyroid problems signs on bloodwork

In order to find out whether you have a thyroid problem, you’ll need to get blood tests. Whether you’re a female or a male, thyroid problems will generally show up in similar ways on a blood test. Some useful thyroid tests include:

  • Free T4 and free T3. These measure levels of the thyroid hormones, which are called T4 and T3. They’re called “free” because the test specifically looks at levels of these hormones that are not bound to a carrier protein in the blood, which means that they’re free and able to bind to your cells.
  • Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). This is a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland at the base of the brain. It goes to the thyroid gland and tells it to make thyroid hormones. If there’s a problem with the thyroid but the pituitary is normal, then TSH reacts in an opposite manner to thyroid hormones. Too much thyroid hormone will make TSH go down, while too little thyroid hormone will make TSH go up.
  • Thyroid stimulating immunoglobulin (TSI). This is an antibody that binds to the thyroid and mimics TSH, causing thyroid hormone levels to go up. It’s created in the autoimmune condition Graves disease.
  • Antithyroid antibodies. These are also antibodies that bind to the thyroid, but in this case, they interfere with its function, leading to low thyroid function. These are created in the autoimmune condition Hashimoto’s disease.

Whether you’re a female or a male, thyroid levels can be tested in a few different ways. You can go to your doctor and have them order a lab test, then go to the lab to have your blood drawn. Another option is to order a home testing kit. You take a small blood sample (obtained by a fingerprick) and send it back to the lab. 

If your results are abnormal, then you’ll need to follow up with a doctor to discuss treatment. The home testing services generally have doctors who you can consult via telemedicine to talk about your results and decide on a plan.

Sources

Carle A, Pedersen IB, et al, Gender differences in symptoms of hypothyroidism: a population-based DanThyr study. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf) 2015 Nov;83(5):717-25. doi: 10.1111/cen.12787

Canaris GJ, Manowitz NR, et al. The Colorado thyroid disease prevalence study. Arch Intern Med 2000 Feb 28;160(4):526-34. doi: 10.1001/archinte.160.4.526.

Hyperthyroidism (Overactive Thyroid). National Institutes of Health. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/endocrine-diseases/hyperthyroidism. Accessed 12 May 2022.

Hypothyroidism (Underactive Thyroid). National Institutes of Health.  https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/endocrine-diseases/hypothyroidism. Accessed 12 May 2022.

Thyroid Patient Information. American Thyroid Association. https://www.thyroid.org/thyroid-information/. Accessed 12 May 2022.


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