As many of you know by reading this blog, I suffer from Hashimoto’s disease.
It took a team of doctors over two years to figure out what was happening, even though my Irish grandmother died from complications of Celiac disease.
And guess what? January is thyroid awareness month.
Hashimoto’s disease, also known as chronic Lymphocytic Thyroiditis, causes inflammation of the thyroid gland, which leads to hypothyroidism.
a pain in the butt redhead an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system inappropriately attacks the thyroid gland, causing damage to thyroid cells and upsetting the balance of chemical reactions in the body.
Unfortunately, the signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism vary widely, depending on the severity of hormone deficiency, so it can lead doctors in another direction.
At first, most barely notice symptoms, such as fatigue and sluggishness and attribute it to getting older.
But as the disease progresses, many of us develop more obvious signs and symptoms.
I believe I have been dealing with this condition my whole life and it finally took me down (literally), forcing doctors to look at all disease possibilities.
My Hasimotos symptoms were:
- Sensitivity to cold. I always had these strange “cold attacks” where I’d get cold and nothing raised my temperature. It is a type of hypothermia, and hot showers left me shivering in the shower. One solution was to take a blanket and cover me over a blowing heater vent. I’d became exhausted, still shivering and fall asleep. I awoke feeling hung-over as if I ate too much sugar. My doctor felt I was experiencing a mild form of Myxedema.
- Pale, dry skin.
- A puffy face.
- Hoarse voice.
- Unexplained weight gain, followed by weight loss, then gain again without changing lifestyle.
- Muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness, especially in shoulders and hips.
- Pain and stiffness in joints and swelling in knees or the small joints in hands and feet.
- Muscle weakness, especially in lower extremities. If I wasn’t careful and turned wrong I’d have a nasty fall. The first few times it happened I thought nothing of it, but after a while it began to scare me.
- Excessive or prolonged menstrual bleeding (menorrhagia).
- Tingling and numbing of hands and feet.
- Catching many colds.
- Sleep apnea.
- Memory problems.
- Hair loss.
- Extreme fatigue.
The thyroid gland produces two main hormones, Thyroxine (T-4) and Triodothyronine (T-3). They maintain the rate at which the body uses fats and carbohydrates, control body temperature, influence heart rate and help regulate the production of protein.
The rate at which T4 and T3 are released is controlled by the pituitary gland and the area at the base of the brain, which acts as a thermostat for our system. The brain signals the pituitary gland to make thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). The pituitary gland then releases an amount of TSH depending on how much T4 and T3 are in the blood. The thyroid gland regulates its production of these two hormones based on the amount of TSH it receives.
Blah. Can you believe I know all this?
Neither can my mother.
Normally, our immune system uses antibodies and lymphocytes to protect against viruses, bacteria and antigens that invade the body. As I stated at the beginning, Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system creates antibodies which damage the thyroid gland. The disease causes inflammation of the thyroid gland, known as “thyroiditis”. This can impair the ability of the thyroid to produce hormones, leading to hypothyroidism.
Doctors don’t know what causes an immune system to attack the thyroid gland. Some scientists think
God is getting back at redheads a virus or bacteria might trigger the response, while others believe a genetic flaw may be involved (yeah I married it). My mother has thyroid nodules and elevated TSH.
Since my Hashimoto’s disease caused a thyroid hormone deficiency, I needed replacement therapy with thyroid hormone. This involves a daily dose of Armour Thyroid and Cytomel, other people may be prescribed Levothyroxine.
This medication is suppose to restore hormone levels and reverse the symptoms listed above. It has taken me another two years after starting treatment to begin to feel better. They say it can take time to reverse symptoms, especially if the disease went untreated for a number of years or if you are raising your ex husband.
Here are a list of websites for more thyroid information:
- Celiac Disease Foundation
- The Thyroid Foundation of Canada
- Thyroid Disease-Org.UK
- Genetics Home Reference
- Dr Lowe
- Dr Hotze
- The Experience Project
- A Hashimotos Story
- Stop The Thyroid Madness
- Armour Thyroid Information
At first the diagnosis and day to day dealing with the idea of a disease was difficult. Doctors don’t say much when they deliver a diagnosis. As patients we are often left to search for our own answers and hope. Thank God for the Internet, books and medical studies.
There is also the worry of being able to handle one’s life and how ‘un-sexy’ the word disease can be. We think some foolish thoughts before we settle into the idea that we are stronger mentally than we ever knew. We fight back, manage the pills and get on with the day to day living of our lives.
I still have good days and bad days. There are the occasional “crashes”, where for some reason the meds don’t work and some difficult symptom reappears. I think this is the cycle of auto-immunity. When I catch a simple cold now (it is rare) the old feelings of exhaustion return and fear overtakes my thoughts. I have to remind myself it is “just a cold.”
In a few days I will be up and running again bugging the crap out of my son (it’s a mother’s job). I rest, then recover — thrilled that my body is doing what it is meant to do: heal.
Some people overcome this disease, and for some strange reason the body stops attacking the thyroid and TSH returns to normal. For me, I am not sure about the outcome since I think I went too many years undiagnosed.
Thank God for red wine.