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Testosterone & Hyperthyroidism

by
author image Berit Brogaard
Dr. Berit Brogaard has written since 1999 for publications such as "Journal of Biological Chemistry," "Journal of Medicine and Philosophy" and "Biology and Philosophy." In her academic research, she specializes in brain disorders, brain intervention and emotional regulation. She has a Master of Science in neuroscience from University of Copenhagen and a Ph.D. in philosophy from State University of New York at Buffalo.
Testosterone & Hyperthyroidism
Hyperthyroidism can give rise to low levels of testosterone. Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images

Testosterone is a steroid hormone secreted from the adrenal glands, ovaries and testes. The hormone plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy libido, preserving bone structure and muscle mass and maintaining energy levels. The thyroid gland plays an important role in maintaining natural testosterone levels. When the thyroid gland becomes overactive, this results in an increased secretion of thyroid hormone. This condition can give rise to notable weight loss, muscle loss, anxiety, mood swings and in some cases, low levels of testosterone.

Hyperthyroidism and SHBG Levels

Hyperthyroidism is a hereditary, treatable condition that is associated with an overactive thyroid gland. When the gland is overactive, the secretion of thyroid hormones into the bloodstream increases. These hormones play a crucial role in controlling weight and fat accumulation, maintaining muscle mass and steroid hormone levels. An increase in the thyroid hormones elevates testosterone levels and the blood levels of sex hormone-binding globulin, SHBG, a substance that binds to testosterone and inactivates it. This results in insignificant levels of testosterone in the bloodstream.

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Symptoms of Low Testosterone and Hyperthyroidism

While the main symptom of hyperthyroidism is fatigue, rapid weight loss and an extreme quickening of the heartbeat at irregular intervals, the main symptom of low testosterone levels in men and women is a loss of desire for sex. The decrease in available testosterone associated with hyperthyroidism has a direct, negative impact on the libido. Furthermore, the body tends to respond to the high levels of SHBG by secreting additional estrogen and progesterone in both men and women. The elevated estrogen levels, in combination with the decreased amounts of available testosterone, further contributes to sexual dysfunction.

Treatments of Hyperthyroidism

Antithyroid drugs, such as propylthiouracil, or PTU, and methimazole, or Tapazole, can temporarily treat the symptoms of hyperthyroidism. However, doctors do not prescribe it as a permanent treatment plan for this condition. After a year or two, patients are weaned off the drug. In some patients, particularly women, the thyroid gland recovers during this treatment and no further treatment is necessary. In most cases, however, the only safe way to treat hyperthyroidism is to administer radioactive iodine or remove the thyroid gland surgically. When radioactive iodine binds to the thyroid gland, the gland is partially destroyed.

Hypothyroidism Following Hyperthyroidism

When hyperthyroidism is treated with radioactive iodine, the aim is to end the treatment before the thyroid gland is completely destroyed. But it is practically impossible to know exactly when the activity levels of the gland are at a normal level. So, it is common to aim at activity levels lower than normal. Patients then develop hypothyroidism, but this condition is less dangerous than hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism can lead to a thyroid hormone rain, which can be lethal. It can also cause Graves' disease, an eye disease that cause the eyes to bulge out. Hypothyroidism doesn't have immediate life-threatening consequences and can be treated permanently with thyroid hormone supplements. These supplements help to normalize testosterone levels.

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