September 29th, 2016
Thyroid gland is a 2 inch small gland that is located at the front of your neck. This butterfly shaped gland plays a vital role in the maintenance of overall health. The hormones secreted from thyroid gland (such as triiodothyronine and thyroxin) are responsible for the regulation of body weight, basal temperature, metabolism, and cholesterol levels. Thyroid gland hormones can also have a huge impact on the development of nervous system, brain, breathing and heartbeat in the young children. Babies who are born with thyroid abnormalities are at higher risk of developing mental retardation.
It is noteworthy that the importance of thyroid hormones increases as the person ages and poorly managed fluctuations in the management of thyroid functions can lead to deleterious effects on a person’s mental, physical and sexual health. According to latest statistics reported by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, investigators suggested that about 12% of the US population will develop thyroid dysfunction at some point of their life.
According to data reported by the American Thyroid Association (ATA), more than 20 million Americans are currently living with a thyroid disorder (1)
Thyroid disorders are classified into two primary disorders:
1. Hyperthyroidism: In some people, thyroid gland becomes overactive and secretes excessive hormones; this condition is termed as overactive thyroid or hyperthyroidism. Such people develops accelerated metabolism and experiences weight loss, increased body temperature, anxiety, nervousness and abnormal heartbeat. Diarrheal episodes may also be experienced in hyperthyroidism and if not treated adequately may culminate in permanent systemic dysfunction.
Hyperthyroidism can be treated via medication or surgical procedures (such as partial or total thyroidectomy). Radioiodine therapy is another option in which radio iodine pellets are administered to destroy the thyroid gland.
2. Hypothyroidism: Underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism is the exact opposite of hyperthyroidism. In this condition thyroid gland works slowly and produces insufficient amounts of hormones. The symptoms include, low body temperature, increased body weight, dry papery skin, tiredness and constipation.
Hypothyroidism is easier to be treated as compared to hyperthyroidism. It is treated via synthetic thyroid hormone i.e. synthetic thyroxine to maintain normal systemic functions.
Both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism are associated with sexual issues such as erectile dysfunction, delayed ejaculation, premature ejaculation and decreased libido. But, the scientific reason behind this link is not clear yet. Some logical explanations include:
According to a new research, erection issues are more common in men who have hypothyroidism as compared to those who are living with hyperthyroidism. It has been observed that treatment of thyroid disorders often helps in the complete resolution of erection issues. Unfortunately, more than 60% people living with thyroid dysfunction have no idea of their illness, which often delays the diagnostic and treatment process.
In 2005 a comparative study was conducted, in which 48 men with thyroid disorder were examined for possible sexual problems. 14 men were found to be hypothyroid while remaining 34 tested positive for hyperthyroidism. Upon evaluation it was found that 64% men with hypothyroidism had low libido while 7% experience premature ejaculation. On the other hand, men with hyperthyroidism experience premature ejaculation in 50% cases; whereas 18% complaints of low sexual drive, and 15% report having erectile dysfunction and delayed ejaculation.
If someone is experiencing sexual dysfunction along with other symptoms of thyroid disorders, it is highly recommended to consult a doctor. If thyroid gland disorder is suspected to be the reason, the thyroid stimulating hormone –TSH is generally used as a screening test to evaluate thyroid dysfunction. TSH is secreted via pituitary gland and is responsible for the regulation of thyroid gland to secrete the hormones. Besides blood tests, thyroid gland image scanning can also be performed
Normally, after managing or treating thyroid dysfunction, sexual issues generally resolves within months. However, erectile dysfunction can be associated with a number of other health issues such as diabetes and heart diseases therefore, a complete health evaluation is very important.
2. Corona, G., Wu, F. C. W., Forti, G., Lee, D. M., O’Connor, D. B., O’Neill, T. W., … & Finn, J. D. (2012). Thyroid hormones and male sexual function. International journal of andrology, 35(5), 668-679.
3. Garin, M. C., Arnold, A. M., Lee, J. S., Tracy, R. P., & Cappola, A. R. (2014). Subclinical hypothyroidism, weight change, and body composition in the elderly: the Cardiovascular Health Study. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 99(4), 1220-1226.
4. Sansone, A., Romanelli, F., Gianfrilli, D., & Lenzi, A. (2014). Endocrine evaluation of erectile dysfunction. Endocrine, 46(3), 423-430.