Irregular periods are often the first sign that you are in menopause, and studies have found that around 90% of women reach this transition with irregular periods. Irregular periods are a normal part of transitioning through menopause, but some underlying conditions can also cause irregular periods. This means it's important to know the difference between the two.
Most menstrual cycles have an interval of 25 to 31 days and last around five days, although this does work differently for different women. Menopause can cause periods to be skipped, periods to become longer or shorter, and period flow to become heavier.
Relationship between Irregular Periods and Thyroid
One of the largest endocrine glands found in the human body, the thyroid, is found in the neck and its uses include controlling bodily functions, hormone interactions, and the production of protein. It is controlled by the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus in the brain, and it is often the culprit of irregular periods through being overactive or underactive.
How Thyroid Problems Lead to Irregular Periods
Both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism can cause irregular periods. However, if you are just experiencing irregular periods, it is probably not a thyroid conditions. This is because thyroid conditions usually cause a variety of symptoms.
Menstrual symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
Early menstruation. Known in the medical world as precocious puberty, getting periods before the age of 10 can be a sign of a thyroid problem.
Menorrhagia. Heavy periods can also be a sign of hypothyroidism. Frequent periods, shortening of a cycle, or periods lasting longer than normal would suggest hypothyroidism.
Other symptoms of hypothyroidism also can include:
- Feeling cold
- Muscle weakness
- Unexplained weight gain
- Joint and muscle pain
- Dry hair and skin
- Less perspiration than normal
- Puffiness in the face
- A hoarse voice
Menstrual symptoms of hyperthyroidism includes:
- Late menstruation. If a teenager doesn't have a period until the age of 15 then an overactive thyroid is a possible problem.
- Absent or infrequent periods. The complete absence of a period, or a long time in-between, shows hyperthyroidism.
Other symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:
- Weight loss
- Eating more than usual
- Rapid and irregular heartbeat
- Feeling nervous, anxious, or irritable
- Problems sleeping
- Trembling in hands and fingers
- Excess perspiration
- Feeling too warm
- Muscle weakness
- Changes in the appearance of the eyes
As you can see, the underactive and overactive thyroid leads to separate problems, but are both linked with the menopausal sign and symptom that is irregular periods.
More Information about Irregular Periods and Thyroid Problems
If you think that you have a thyroid condition it is important to talk to your doctor. A doctor can prescribe medication and help you rebalance your hormones. Click here to learn more about irregular periods during menopause.