Breast tenderness is a common symptom associated with menopause, and many women are familiar with the pain, especially if they have been through pregnancy and breastfeeding. Hypothyroidism is a much lesser-known disorder that can occur at any time, including during menopause, and therefore, many women remain unaware of the problem.
There are many possible causes for each individual condition, but in most cases, they are both related to the levels of hormones in the body. Women should not be worried because the uncomfortable and often worrying breast tenderness symptoms and hypothyroid problems can be treated once diagnosed.
What Is Breast Tenderness?
Mastalgia is the medical name for breast tenderness, a general symptom that can include any soreness or discomfort affecting either one or both breasts. Most women experience some form of breast tenderness during their lifetime, and it can be a common occurrence during menstrual periods. In the run-up to menopause, as well as during and after this stage, women are very likely to suffer from breast tenderness.
There are two types of breast tenderness: cyclical mastalgia and non-cyclical. The first one is related to a woman's monthly cycle and the other is generally caused by a variety of other factors, like a cyst. Women going through menopause can experience either type of breast tenderness. It is not a serious health condition and generally resolves itself without treatment. Symptoms can include:
- Swelling of the breasts
- Soreness to the touch
- Increased breast size
What Is Hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the body lacks sufficient levels of thyroid hormone. Since the main purpose of the thyroid hormones is to direct the body's metabolism, people with this condition typically see their metabolic rate drop sharply and experience a cluster of symptoms that can commonly include breast tenderness. The malfunction of the thyroid gland can be caused by menopausal hormone imbalances, but more commonly, it stems from autoimmune disorders or genetics. Further symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- Irregular periods
- Decreased libido
- Weight gain
What Is the Link between Breast Tenderness and Hypothyroidism?
The main link between breast tenderness and hypothyroidism is a hormonal imbalance. However, while breast tenderness is caused by hormonal imbalance, an underactive thyroid itself generates a hormonal imbalance in the body. This means that breast tenderness and other symptoms associated with menopause - like menstrual irregularities - are also likely to occur in the case of hypothyroidism.
Menopause entails a permanent decrease in the levels of sex hormones, resulting in a number of side effects, potentially including breast pain. This is also the case during a woman's monthly cycle, in which hormone levels fluctuate and breast tenderness can result.
Managing Breast Tenderness and Hypothyroidism
For breast tenderness that is related to monthly cycles and is only mild, medication is normally not required, although over-the-counter painkillers and anti-inflammatories can be helpful in managing discomfort. Hypothyroidism that is not related to menopause is still treated with hormones, but with thyroid hormone medication.
If breast tenderness and hypothyroidism are both caused by a hormonal imbalance, most women can alleviate symptoms by taking measures to control hormone levels. Click on to read more about the most common approaches to treating breast tenderness.
- Hutchinson, Susan M.D. "The Stages of a Woman's Life: Menstruation, Pregnancy, Nursing, Perimenopause, Menopause". November 2007.
- Love, Susan M.D. Menopause and Hormone Book. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2003.
- BMJ Group. "Menopause: What is it?" Patient Leaflet. 2007.