Health Advice



Mayo Clinic Q&A: Women and thyroid disease

Victor Bernet, M.D., Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research on

Published in Health & Fitness

DEAR MAYO CLINIC: I recently read that thyroid issues affect women more often than men. Can you explain what the thyroid is and how it affects my body? Can I do anything to prevent having issues with my thyroid as I age?

ANSWER: The thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland at the neck’s base. The thyroid has a significant effect on the body in that it produces hormones that help regulate many of your body’s functions.

The thyroid gland produces two main hormones: thyroxine (T-4) and triiodothyronine (T-3). These hormones keep your body’s metabolism consistent, aid in maintaining your body's temperature, have an impact on how well your nervous system functions and can affect your heart rate as well as blood pressure. A third hormone, known as calcitonin, which aids in controlling the level of calcium in your blood, also is produced by your thyroid gland.

Unfortunately, there are numerous disorders that can affect the thyroid, and women are at higher risk for thyroid issues than men. According to the American Thyroid Association, about one in every eight women will suffer from thyroid illness during their lifetime.

Although it is believed that the development of thyroid illness is connected to a person’s autoimmune system, it is unknown why women are more susceptible to thyroid disease. Genetics may play a role. Women of any age can experience thyroid issues, although women who have just given birth or are going through menopause are more likely to experience thyroid concerns.


The most commonly known thyroid conditions include:

There is no way to prevent thyroid disease. The best course of action is to establish a routine to get annual health physicals and be aware of any unusual symptoms you experience. Speak with your healthcare team about concerns, including tests for thyroid hormone if you are concerned. If you are suspected of having thyroid issues, an evaluation by a thyroid expert or a thyroid disorders clinic may be warranted. Overall, most people with thyroid disease can go on to live a normal quality of life. — Victor Bernet, M.D., Endocrinology, Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, Florida

(Mayo Clinic Q & A is an educational resource and doesn’t replace regular medical care. This Mayo Clinic Q&A represents inquiries this healthcare expert has received from patients. For more information, visit

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