Thursday, May 8, 2008

Hashimoto's Update

Back in January I discovered my thyroid problem and started on medication. I naively thought I'd be better in no time, but it hasn't been that simple. I've since learned that it's a very complicated problem and has no easy answers, but I wanted to share with you what I've learned. I'm not a doctor or a nurse, but as a friend, I feel I can at least offer a little insight and advice. I don't want to be defined by this disease, and I don't plan to whinge about it forever, but I feel like I have to try to educate folks because after all, if Oprah won't, someone has to.

Hashimoto's Disease was discovered and named in the 1920s, but still no one knows exactly what causes it. It seems to be hereditary and is triggered at times of hormonal flux like pregnancy, childbirth and menopause. It starts with your immune system attacking your thyroid gland. Sometimes the inflammation is so bad a goiter will develop, but sometimes there are no symptoms. Even if the sufferer has symptoms and goes to a doctor they are frequently told that the symptoms are simply "age related" and to "deal with it". And even if a woman can convince her doctor to run tests, they often appear normal.

The thyroid sometimes responds to the attack by upping its output of hormones resulting hyperthyroid which causes heart palpitations, weight loss, agitation, and anxiety attacks. Often these symptoms merely reinforce the doctor's opinion that the patient is a little loony and too, too often, antidepressants are prescribed. But of course they don't fix the problem, they merely mask it. So while the patient feels a little more in control, the disease is getting worse, the thyroid gland is losing its battle and the hypothyroid stage begins. This is when the thyroid fails to make enough hormone and the sufferer starts slowing down little by little. Now the patient begins to feel cold all the time, may be constipated, starts to forget things, and feels tired all the time. They may also have high cholesterol, aches and pains, fluid retention, and weight gain. The slow metabolism often leads to feelings of worthlessness, sadness and depression.

Pretty much all this happened to me gradually and with little notice. I just thought that's how it felt to get old. There were many mornings when I'd wake up and my first thought would be, "I hate my life." It was awful! So if you have these symptoms and suspect hypothyroidism, take this simple test. Get a mercury thermometer, shake it down below 95 degrees and put it by your bedside table. First thing in the morning, before you get up and without moving around too much, put it in your armpit next to your skin. Leave it there for 10 minutes. Do this for three days and write down your temperature. If your temperature is 97.6 or below for three days in a row, your thyroid probably isn't functioning properly.


Your next step would be to print out the Hashimoto's symptoms, circle the ones you have and take it with you to your doctor. Make sure your doctor listens to your symptoms and checks all your reflexes. Tell her about the morning temperatures. Insist on not only the TSH test, but also T4, T3, and Thyroid Antibodies blood tests. The first doctor I saw, who was an endocrinologist, saw me for about 7 minutes, didn't listen to me or check my reflexes, and didn't do the antibody test. After taking medication for a few weeks I called him one afternoon, terribly depressed, and asked him if I should increase my medication. He said, "Your depression has nothing to do with your hypothyroidism. You'll have to see someone else about that. In fact, looking at your blood work, you should probably decrease your medication."


Needless to say, he is no longer my doctor. I honestly don't think anyone who has suffered this kind of chemical depression can understand it. I am normally an energetic, active, optimistic person, but with decreased thyroid hormones, I felt like I was dragging a dead whale around. I just felt HORRIBLE. I know this is heresy, but I increased my medication myself and in a few days I started feeling better and soon I found a new doctor. The new doctor actually listened to me and asked lots of questions. He also examined me thoroughly and checked my reflexes. And he upped my prescription and did the antibody test. Then he actually called me at home to tell me the results. (My antibodies were sky high.) I know I'm not cured and never will be, but I feel like I'm making progress. I'm actually warm now, I have more energy, and I'm no longer depressed.


So here's my final advice. Since this disease is common, causes all kinds of problems, and yet is highly underdiagnosed, we must be our own advocates. We must push our doctors to order the proper tests to explain our symptoms. And if you are diagnosed with Hashimoto's don't be satisfied until you FEEL better, no matter what the simple TSH test says. And if your doctor doesn't listen to you, get another doctor. And read all you can about it, because you need the latest information to make informed choices. Be proactive in your health; stop eating processed foods, sugars, and fast food; add more fresh vegetables, lean meats and fish to your diet; get 30 minutes of exercise every day; take time for relaxing pursuits like music, meditation, or art. And because Hashimoto's is hereditary, educate your daughters about it so they will recognize the symptoms. And spread the word to your friends too, I think there are a lot of women out there that haven't been diagnosed, and no one should suffer with Hashimoto's.

16 comments:

Knitty, Vintage and Rosy said...

I am so glad you are being proactive when it comes to this disease. You are very well informed and that helps so much when you are dealing with a disease/disorder.

Thank goodness you have many interests and hobbies, which I think helps immensely.

And kudos for bringing this to the attention of so many.

Chin up!

Lisa xo
Knitty, Vintage and Rosy

Beverly said...

It is wonderful that you are sharing your experience with others. It is so important that we are pro-active in caring for ourselves and those we love.

I am grateful that you are making positive progress.

Mary said...

Glad to know you have taken your health and wellbeing into your own hands Laura. This is very important as there are many people in the medical field who unfortunately don't do their job well.
Thanks for advising of the symptoms to be aware of - I never realized this disease could be so serious and cause life to be so difficult.
I hope all goes well for you dear - stay strong.
Hugs - Mary.

Mary said...

Oh Laura, it sounds like you have had such a terrible time! I am so glad, though, that you have finally been diagnosed correctly, and feel as though you have a handle on things. Thanks for sharing this with all of us -- we all need to be informed and proactive when it comes to our health care.

Hang in there, sweetie, and take care of yourself!
xoxo,
Mary

Anonymous said...

i'm sorry that you have had such a long time of untreated disease, but glad that you found a way to get help for your self and a new good dr. thanks for your unselfish posting about the disease and the wise urging for each of us to share in the care of our own bodies with the professionals. i wish you continued healing! jkj

Miss Jean said...

Thank you so much for printing this. My mom has had Hashimoto's disease and has had thyroid problems all of her life. She is actually doing well and it has never seemed to be a hindrance to her. I have lots of the symptoms and like you said, my doctors have never taken my symptoms seriously. I will indeed print out the symptoms and take it to my doctor. He's a new doctor for me and is much more understanding and proactive than the ones I've had before. My temperature never reads more than 97.6!

Thanks so much again for being a woman's advocate!!!!!

Pat said...

I went through something similar, as I had "toxic nodules" which bounced me between hyper and hypo. I finally had a thyroidectomy, and luckily so, as it was full of cancer even though I had negative needle biopsies.
Thankfully, I'm doing well now.

You are so right that thyroid problems are misdiagnosed or missed too often. Thanks for posting the signs and symptoms!

Tara said...

Laura

I
have an Aunt who siffers from this and have been thinking about getting checked...my oomphf seems to be gone and I can see other things on this list. Thank you, girlfriend!!

:0)
Tara

Samantha said...

" I have learnt so much more about
anxiety attacks symptoms after visiting www.attackanxiety.org. It gives great tips on overcoming anxiety attacks etc. Very useful & highyly recommended for those who are having this problem."

Beeswax, said...

Dear Laura , i was so upset to read that you are still battleing with your thyroid trouble , it seems to be a spiral of unexplained diagnostic conclusions, I am so sorry to hear that, but , as i can also read from your post you are dealing with it very well and i commend you for your positivity on this matter , have missed you loads, it is so nice to catch up on all your daily life and may i say the flowers for your mother are beautiful, she mustha ev been very pleased to receive them from you , you are a dear ....will e-mail u back very soon Laura..my love anf hugs..Kath..xx

Pippajo said...

I remember reading this post before, but had to come over and find it again as I've recently discovered a nodule on my thryoid and have a biopsy scheduled. I've had symptoms of hypothyroid for YEARS and just never knew until recently that they were related (thought I was just getting old or being too lazy).

Thank you for posting about your experience as it has definitely helped me understand what I need to do to be proactive concerning my own health!

Meg said...

Laura,

I was researching Hashimoto's disease for an e-mail I was writing to a friend. I happened upon you blog. Our Youth Pastor has been suffering with this for years. He had been a competitive body builder so he knew when something was wrong with his body. He tried using a supplement that would naturally raise your Glutathione, your body's master antioxidant, level. He had depression and chronic fatigue syndrome also. He had been suffering with this for 15 years. With in several days of taking the supplement, he had a clear thought, his muscles were not fatigued, he was not taking 3 energy drinks a day to stay awake. I would be happy to get you info on the supplement and in contact with Tad, our youth pastor. Tad gave a sample of the supplement to a pastor friend in OK that also suffered from Hashimoto's disease, and he too had many improvements with in a week. He said it gave him his edge back. I have been taking the supplement for my joint pain, and it has been amazing. I know this sounds odd, but I felt called to share this with you. Please free to contaact me at megmagruder@aggienetwork.com
Meg Frisco TX

Meg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susan (Between Naps on the Porch) said...

Hi Laura, Just noticed this post and had to read it. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism 10 years ago. Prior to that, I walked around undiagnosed for around 5 years. I had been told I was border line, which really means you are I found out later. I feel my best when my TSH is at the lower end of the scale...around 1. Unfortunately, it's been a roller coaster ride for me. I have a great doctor, highly respected and he listens...but I still suffer with symptoms off and on. He also discovered recently that I was low on Vit. B and Vit. D. Apparently, a lot of doctors are checking the vit. D now because we all use sunscreen and avoid the sun...which is the way you get about 95% of your vit. D. If you haven't had Vit. B or D checked, I do recommend it. I've noticed an improvement in my energy since I started the sublingual vit. B. What you take orally in pill form, isn't enough...your body digest it so you need the liquid that you put under your tongue...I buy it at Walmart. And the vit. B is prescribed by my doctor...take it once a week. Anyway, if you have any questions, my email is betweennapsontheporch@gmail.com. Enjoy you blog very much. Susan

Susan (Between Naps on the Porch) said...

Hi Laura, I also collect vintage Spode Pink Tower, too...and I found all of it on eBay about 2 years ago. I often see it on there. Not sure if you are collecting the vintage with the oval mark or the newer mark...whichever you collect, if you want to stay consistent, you'll want to watch for that if you do purchase off eBay. I only bought 6 place settings of the Woodland, I really wanted 12...hope I don't regret that. Glad you already knew about the vitamine B and D! :-) Susan

Sandra said...

Was reading down through your blog and just had to comment on the thyroid situation. I was diagnosed about 15 years ago with hypothyroidism. I had always been a thin person...but suddenly gained 25 lbs and could not get rid of it by diet or exercise. Everyone kept telling me that's what happens as you age. I just could not accept it. I felt terrible and could hardly make it through each day. Tried several doctors each with a "magic cure". Finally found a doctor that is into treating people with vitamins and nutrition. He put me on "Nature Throid" and a restrictive diet eliminating white flour and all forms of sugar from my diet. In the past 8 months I have lost 25 lbs! I feel GREAT! Better than I ever did in my 30's. Wow, it is such a blessing to feel good. Hopefully this comment will encourage someone else to keep looking and not give up on searching for help.