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How much do you know about thyroid disease? You might know that one kind makes you gain weight and another makes you lose weight. But it is an illness that people don’t know very much about. So, today I am sharing my hypothyroidism story and how to combat the symptoms.
My hypothyroidism story – What is hypothryoidism?
Hypothyroidism, also known as an underactive thyroid, is an endocrine system disorder that means the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone. The thyroid glands main responsibility is controlling metabolism. Both men and women can have hypothyroidism but it is more common in women.
My hypothyroidism story – What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism?
There are a lot of symptoms of hypothyroidism and a lot of them are very general. It is so easy to put a lot of them down to other things or even changes in your life.
- Weight gain
- Feeling cold all the time
- A puffy face
- Loss of appetite
- Hair loss, especially the eyebrows
- Dry skin
- Brittle hair and nails
- Muscle aches
- Irregular periods
- Hoarse voice and difficulty swallowing
- Slow heart rate
- Slow movements and thoughts
- Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
- Hearing loss
- Dry eyes
- Loss of sex drive
My hypothyroidism story
The back story
My hypothyroidism story actually begins about three years ago. A routine blood test came back showing an overactive thyroid. I had recently been full of cold so my GP thought it could be due to that and thought it best to leave it 4 weeks and test it again. In those 4 weeks I was starting with symptoms of hyperthyroidism; insomnia, palpitations and shaking hands. After 4 weeks the result was still abnormal so I was referred to the hospital to see an Endocrinologist (thyroid specialist). It was a long wait to be seen at the hospital. At my first appointment they took my bloods again as it had been around 10 weeks since the last test and they need to know the levels to work out the strength of medication you need. The specialist rang me that night, very confused as my bloods were back in normal levels. I had my bloods tested every 4 weeks for a few months before going back to see him and they stayed in normal range.
No-one had any real explanation as to what had happened for those few months so I was discharged and put on 6 monthly blood tests to keep an eye on it.
Over the course of the next couple of years my thyroid gland was over-active twice and under-active once, with no symptoms, but quickly set itself right again.
The start of my recent problems
In June 2017 I was starting to feel just not quite right, nothing I could put my finger on though. At an event I had my photograph taken and was so upset when I saw it. My face looks really round and puffy! (I’m not sure why I didn’t realise this until the photograph. It’s clear I don’t pay too much attention the mirror on a morning isn’t it).
Knowing the symptoms of both thyroid problems booking a blood test as soon as possible had to happen. This, obviously, came back showing hypothyroidism. Due to the previous problems with my results, leaving them a few weeks and rechecking was the plan.
Over the next 6-8 weeks under-active thyroid symptoms really kicked in. I was exhausted, could sleep 12-18 hours (yep that happened one Saturday) and still feel like I hadn’t been to bed for weeks. I was SO cold. All. The. Time. My periods stopped. I put on over 1 1/2 stone despite following Slimming World religiously. The puffy face got worse, Doctors describe it as moonface which is quite unkind but accurate and quite funny too! Both of my eyebrows fell out. I had bald patches, thinning hair and brittle hair that almost crumbled as you touch it. I had anaemia, Vitamin D deficiency and Vitamin B12 deficiency. My skin was dry and felt like sandpaper. My nails were brittle, broke and split down the middle. And, I was having problems concentrating, especially at work.
After 10 weeks the medication was started, one Levothyroxine tablet on a morning.
I carried on working throughout it all, but had a “fit” note from my GP for 16 weeks. It basically lets your employer know what whilst you are fit to be at work they might need to amend duties or have special considerations. Mine states the exhaustion might make me late to work or unable to do a full day as well as mentioning confusion, just so my employer can keep an eye on the work I do.
My hypothyroidism story – how to combat the symptoms
The first thing you need to do is start the medication. It will start to bring your levels to a more normal range in a few weeks. But, the symptoms can take a few months after this to settle down. It does sometimes take a while to find the correct dose of medication that brings the thyroid levels to a normal range without over treating it and making you have an overactive thyroid.
Get a fit note from your GP. Work will be more understanding to you being late, needing a longer or more frequent breaks or even needing to leave a little earlier with a letter from the Doctor.
For me, exhaustion is the most difficult symptom. Sleep whenever you can. If you need an afternoon nap have one and if you need to lay in on a weekend do it. Try make things a little easier for yourself too. When you are food shopping plan easier meals. Don’t feel guilty if you are having a really bad day and need a microwave meal as you are too tired to cook. Relax on the cleaning and household chores or get people to help out.
The most distressing symptom as a woman is the hair loss on the head and eyebrows. Fortunately mine grew back quite quickly once on the medication but, some people take longer or can’t manage for the few months it takes. Advanced Tricho Pigmentation is a new hair restoration treatment that is worth looking into for both eyebrows and thinning patches of the hair.
Coconut oil and luxurious body butters will be your best friend. Slather the richest moisturisers you can find on your face and body. Coconut oil will really help dry, brittle hair and be as gentle with it as possible. So yes, no hair dryers, straighteners or tight pony tails. Treat yourself to some nail and cuticle cream and oils which will really help the brittle nails.
Once you are on the correct dose of thyroid replacement the weight will come off and quickly. It is quite easy to use it as an excuse for weight gain or not loosing the weight you put on. But once your results are in normal range you are technically not under active anymore and there is no reason to be putting weight on.
Keep an eye on your vitamin and mineral levels. Having hypothyroidism can affect these and no amount of diet change or sunlight helps. I take a multi-vitamin supplement daily as well as Vitamin D replacement. Asking the Doctors to check these when they are doing your routine thyroid blood tests isn’t a bad idea either.
Finally, although my hypothyroidism story is a lifelong condition that will need medication forever, I feel fine now! I’m sure there might be times when the thyroid levels fluctuate and I might need a change of medication. If that happens I know the symptoms eventually pass and after a few months I will get back to normal.
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