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Aug 30 2007

Thursday Thirteen: Everything you wanted to know about low thyroid but didn’t know to ask

Back in June I made a cryptic comment about an anxiously-awaited doctor’s appointment being moved up two months and how happy I was about that. And then…nothing. Sorry ’bout that, but I was waiting to see how I felt before I said anything. I am superstitious about certain things, which is also why I haven’t said a word about my favorite baseball team in the last several months. (And WTF is going on with my fingers? ‘Cause I can’t seem to type a single word without having to backspace at least twice. AGH!) I didn’t want to stop feeling better and I was afraid that actually speaking aloud how much better I felt would cause it to come to a screeching halt.

Two months ago I finally got in to see an endocrinologist about a possible low thyroid. She checked out my blood work, poked around the base of my neck (gag), did a thyroid ultrasound (gag again…get off my neck!). The actual thyroid looked healthy, just small. Um, I’m 5’11″…wouldn’t a “small” thyroid in someone my height be an issue? Just a thought… Long story short, I have early mild hypothyroidism.

Thank GOD, there was a reason I felt like crap all.the.time. I have a family history of screwy thyroid on both sides of my family, so that was a big red flag that helped out the diagnosis. Worries me that I felt as bad as I did and it was “early” and “mild.” God help me if it was “late” and “spicy”…sorry, “non-mild.” I have been on thyroid medication for the last 8 or 9 weeks now, and I gotta tell ya, I can’t believe how much better I feel. Again, I’m hesitant to be too jubilant about it, because I’m really afraid I’m going to stop feeling so good.

So, today, I’m presenting my first (and probably only) public service announcement Thursday Thirteen. Everything you wanted to know about low thyroid but didn’t know to ask. Too many people, mostly women, suffer from low thyroid and don’t realize it. So here we go. Mostly symptoms in the list, but some links as well. Please note: I am not a doctor, I am a musician. When in doubt, talk to someone with a medical degree, not a music degree.

1. Fatigue. Most people in the world today are tired. It’s mostly because of the 24/7 lifestyle we lead (and I’m assuming that if you read blogs, you lead a 24/7 lifestyle), our crazy lives, and our dependence on caffeine. But I’m talking about a different kind of fatigue. You feel like someone has snuck into your bone marrow and sucked out the very core of your energy stores. You feel like pushing the accelerator down while driving will wear you out. Breathing was a chore for me. No kidding…there’d be times when, after dinner, I’d sit at the table, too exhausted to get up, staring out into space, just thinking, “Why do I need to breathe? I’m too tired to breathe. Can I stop breathing and still, somehow, keep living? Must Google that…” That kind of fatigue. Getting out of bed in the morning was the most difficult thing I had to do all day. I physically couldn’t do it. I’d drink half a pot of coffee, be wide awake, and still be knock-down, drag-out exhausted. I couldn’t sit down during the day to read to the boys because I’d start to fall asleep. That kind of tired.

2. Cold. Ok, it’s summer and it’s been hotter than Lucifer’s left naughty bit (yes, I really do love that phrase), so I have no idea if this has improved. We’ll see in the next couple of months. But I was cold, all of the effin’ time. Mostly my feet (which could be due to the extreme distance from my heart, but I digress), but the rest of me too. My best scrapbook friends, the ones I go to retreat with twice a year, tease me about it mercilessly. Yes, there was that one time I cranked up the thermostat to 90, we all went to dinner, and came back to a sauna. I was fine…felt bad about the rest of them, especially the one with hot flashes…but I was fine. LOL! But me+cold=crabby and cold me.

3. Dry skin. Oh holy hell, do I ever have/had dry skin. Dry, cracking, bleeding skin. Yes, it is very dry here. Yes, I wash my hands a LOT. Yes, I’m not the greatest about following up with hand lotion. But, this was extreme, and had been getting worse for a couple of years (oh, BTW, all my symptoms had been getting gradually worse for the last couple of years). My cracked and bleeding hands would wake me up in the middle of the night. I’d look down and see that my cracked and bleeding hands had stained my clothes. They hurt.

4. Unexplained weight gain. Ok, yes, I know that eating ice cream at 9 pm almost every night is unlikely to help you lose weight. So I cut out the ice cream. I watched what I ate. Good Lord, I tried weight-loss pills (dirty little secret there). Nothing helped. Why didn’t you exercise, you might ask? Yeah, scroll back up to #1 (fatigue), read what I read, and then let’s talk. There were days I could barely haul my sorry butt up the stairs to put the boys to bed; exercise…I just couldn’t do it. On the days I felt I could, I would, but would pay the piper the next day with even more exhaustion. In the last 20 months or so I’ve put on 25-30 pounds. I’m tall, so I hide it well, but I feel it. My clothes don’t fit well, I certainly don’t feel attractive, and I don’t like it. I’m exercising now and eating better, so we’ll see.

5. Depression. I’ve been on anti-depressants for five years now, with time off while I was pregnant with J. I think the depression part goes hand-in-hand with the fatigue and unexplained weight gain. Certainly would make me depressed, and did. I’m hoping to wean myself off them. If I don’t need them, I don’t want them.

6. Low sex drive. Ok, I’m not going into a whole lotta detail here…my parents and brother read this blog. So let’s just say that my thyroid pills are the greatest aphrodisiac on the planet.

7. Irregular periods. Eh, not a big problem here, but it is a symptom. I’ve read that hypothyroid symptoms mimic, in many ways, early menopause. Something to think about.

8. Family history of thyroid issues. Ask around, talk to your parents, aunts, uncles, cousins. I had no idea I had such a family history, on both sides of my family, no less.

So what do you do? Well, hit some of these links, then call your doctor.

9. Hypothyroidism-patient information. This is what my doctor gave me, and one of the best resources I found online. Trust me, I did some research, and this pdf file helped me out the most.

10. American Thyroid Association. When in doubt, go to the doctors in charge.

11. Medline Plus. It’s a health search engine that will help you find reliable health information on the internet.

Then what?

12. Blood draw. They’ll take a couple vials of blood (don’t bother with holy water and garlic, it’s just a lab tech) and give you a band-aid for your trouble. Then you get to sit and wait. Then you get to call your doctor every day for the results. Then you get ticked off. Then the results finally come in and you get to proceed to…

13. Thyroid replacement medication. It’s a lifetime medication, and I’m ok with that. Coffee is a lifetime medication for me, and if I’m ok with that, I’m ok with the thyroid meds. So far we haven’t had to tinker with the medication levels, but I’m sure that’ll come up in the future.

So there ya go. I’m sure this was a whole lot more information about me than anyone cared to know, but I figured if I put a face to it, maybe someone would get something out of this. I feel so much better. I didn’t realize how bad I felt until my meds started kicking in 3 or 4 weeks ago. I have considerably more energy (and I suspect I’ll get more as my body gets accustomed to the correct thyroid levels). My hands, for the fi
rst time in recent memory, are not cracked and bleeding. I actually have reasonably attractive hands; I can hardly believe it. I’m not cold…ok, it’s August, maybe that isn’t a good example. My symptoms have gradually improved, so I have to believe that weight loss will follow gradually as well. I am hopeful.

I hope this lengthy post helps someone. No one should have to feel that lousy. It irritates me that the people most likely to suffer from hypothyroidism are young women of childbearing age (read: moms). Moms are most likely to suffer from this, most likely to think that it’s just “getting older” and “I have kids! Of course I’m exhausted!”, and most likely to put themselves last. Hey, go get yourself taken care of because you canNOT care for others if you’re not taking care of yourself. Good luck!

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