Polycystic ovary syndrome and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis are common disorders that often go undiagnosed for a long time. These two conditions share many similarities, and we want to know: are they connected?
What is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis?
Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is a form of autoimmune thyroiditis (AIT) that damages the thyroid gland.
Your thyroid is the butterfly-shaped gland at the base of your neck. It produces hormones that regulate your body's energy use, along with many other important functions.
As part of the endocrine system, the thyroid gland makes and stores hormones that help regulate the body’s metabolism in the form of blood pressure, blood temperature, and heart rate.
With Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, antibodies directed against the thyroid gland lead to chronic inflammation. Research is inconclusive about why some people make these antibodies. Studies point to nutritional deficiencies, damage to the pituitary gland, certain medications, pregnancy, large hormonal events, or most probably, family history. It is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the United States, affecting roughly 5% of the population.
What is polycystic ovary syndrome?
Polycystic ovary syndrome, also known as PCOS, is a common health problem caused by an imbalance of reproductive hormones.
PCOS is often misinterpreted as a disease, whereas it is actually a set of symptoms that may present together. Typically, women with this syndrome have irregular or absent menstrual periods or an excess of androgens (male hormones). This occurs when the ovaries develop small collections of cysts and fail to regularly release eggs.
Like Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, the cause of PCOS remains largely unknown. Research points to hormone level imbalance, body fat percentage, or metabolism. It’s estimated that PCOS affects 1 in 10 women of childbearing age and is one of the most common causes of infertility.
What is the connection?
While the link between autoimmune thyroiditis and polycystic ovary syndrome has been a table-topic in the medical community, its pathogenesis isn't totally understood.
Research shows that women with PCOS are three times more likely to have Hashimoto’s than women without this hormonal syndrome. While doctors aren’t sure what exactly causes either, it’s presumed that both genetics and environment play a role in the onset of both disorders since they share certain genetic components.
A 2013 study from the Shanghai Key Laboratory of Female Reproductive Endocrine Related Diseases suggests that PCOS may be a kind of autoimmune disease and has a close association with autoimmune thyroiditis. This is due to the high rate of AIT, TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone), and TPO antibodies in PCOS patients as compared to those in control groups.
Those with an autoimmune disease may be more likely to develop another autoimmune disease (called polyautoimmunity). So, drawing from the conclusion of the Shanghai study, it could be suggested that someone with Hashimoto’s Disease is at higher risk to develop Polycystic Ovary Syndrome if it is, in fact, a kind of autoimmune disease.
With this knowledge, it may be advantageous for women who experience PCOS to routinely check their thyroid function to understand if there may be a need for further evaluation with a thyroid specialist Knowing your numbers is important so you can educate yourself and communicate confidently with a physician who you trust.
At Paloma Health, we believe in an integrated, whole-body approach to long-term health and hypothyroidism (including Hashimoto’s). We want you to feel at your absolute best, so our doctors will explore all possible treatment options based on your symptoms, history, and lab results.