January 29, 2018
Have you been feeling tired and grumpy lately? You know you are doing everything your doctor says you should be doing, like eating healthy and exercising, but you just can’t seem to lose weight or might even be gaining weight. You seem to be tired all the time, even though you average 6 or 7 hours of sleep.
Have you talked to your doctor about this? While tiredness and sluggishness are among the most common complaints doctors hear, unfortunately, they can result from many conditions or illnesses. One that should be considered is called hypothyroidism, or low levels of thyroid hormone.
As many as 10 million Americans have some form of thyroid deficiency. Women are affected more than men, with 10 percent of women experiencing this problem. Because the thyroid controls your body’s metabolism, it can impact many aspects of your life, including body weight, menstrual cycles, body temperature, heart rate, cholesterol levels, mood, and much more.
Hypothyroidism Is a Serious, Progressive Disease
Symptoms of hypothyroidism include fatigue, unexpected weight gain, puffiness, joint and muscle pain, constipation, dry skin and hair, depression, and heavy menstrual periods.
Causes range from autoimmune diseases, such as Hashimoto’s disease, to certain medicines, radiation therapy, or thyroid surgery. Other causes include genetic predisposition or a disorder of the pituitary gland that controls the thyroid and iodine deficiency.
Diagnosis: Simple Test, Complicated Results
Diagnosis can be done with a simple blood test to measure the amount of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) in your blood. TSH is produced by the pituitary gland and controls the thyroid. It can be a marker for thyroid health, but this is where it gets complicated.
Low TSH levels may indicate hyperthyroidism, or excessive thyroid hormone, while high TSH levels can mean hypothyroidism, or too little hormone. For some people in the mild to moderate range, however, more detailed tests may be needed. In addition to TSH, your doctor may want to test other indicators of thyroid function, and having a good relationship with your doctor or endocrinologist can be very helpful in navigating the tests and understanding the results.
Treatment for Hypothyroidism Is a Journey
Treatment for hypothyroidism may involve taking a daily synthetic thyroid hormone in pill form and working with your doctor to get the dose right. In addition, some foods may affect your body’s ability to absorb the synthetic thyroid hormone. Large amounts of soy products, fiber, iron, calcium, or certain antacids can affect how the synthetic hormone is absorbed and used in your body.
For this and other reasons, it may be difficult to know if the medication is working. Unlike aspirin for a headache, some hypothyroid patients may not know if the medication is working for a month or two.
Without enough medication, your symptoms may continue unchanged. Too much medication may result in nervousness, heart palpitations, insomnia, or calcium loss. If a person also has a heart condition, the medication may increase the risk of heart attack or chest pain. Consequently, your doctor will want to monitor your hypothyroid medication closely with frequent dose checks and blood tests.
It is important to continue working with your doctor, take your medications exactly as directed, and not give up. Left untreated, the symptoms of hypothyroidism will likely continue to advance, increasing the risk of heart failure, depression or in severe cases, coma.
Avoid Thyroid “Support” Hype
Hyothyroidism is a lifelong condition that may require lifelong treatment. Your treatment will be more successful if you adjust your diet, exercise, and maintain a regular meal schedule to help keep your thyroid levels in balance.
Resist the urge to try “natural” thyroid medications and supplements that you hear about or find on the Internet. In a 2013 study of 10 top-selling thyroid “support” supplements, German researchers found that nine of them contained some amounts of T3 and T4, which can upset the thyroid hormone balance you and your doctor are trying to achieve.
When they get it right, many people with hypothyroidism report that their fatigue levels improve, they have more energy and sometimes lose weight.
If you think you are experiencing symptoms of hypothyroidism, ask your doctor. If you are diagnosed with thyroid hormone deficiency, it is important to understand the disorder to get the optimal treatment that is right for you. Healthcare Associates of Texas specialists work with you to help you find what works best for you. Book an appointment today.
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