The writer of this article was diagnosed as being Hypotheroidal about six years ago, and has often questioned the treatment that they receive, and the purpose of the thyroid, how it works, what it does. All the answers that have been given in the past were technical ones that were perhaps beyond her limited knowledge of human biology. A patient wants someone to tell it to them straight and this article is an attempt to aid someone else facing the same dilemma.
What is the Thyroid?
The thyroid is located in the neck region and produces hormones that balance up the metabolism of a human being. In simple terms, this dictates how tired or how energetic we are.
How does it work ?
The thyroid has two important factors. When a blood test is done, there are two levels which are measured. One is the rate at which the brain dictates to the thyroid gland how much hormone to produce and the other is the actual hormone that is free flowing in the body. Taking a look at my blood test, it is much easier to see and understand on a French blood test. I could not understand why one was high and one was okay, and my doctor explained this in very simple layman terms this week which was a super way of demonstrating the readings that people get on blood tests and makes the whole working system of the thyroid easier to understand.
Basically, the brain tells the thyroid to produce hormone. Sometimes when the thyroid is not working properly the brain is knocking at the doot saying "come on work will you", and the thyroid (or pituataru gland) doesn't answer, so that the levels of what is called TSH rise too much and need controlling with a drug that is called thyroxine. Its almost as if there is no one at home in the gland and thus the level is ever increasing until corrected.
On the blood test below, you can see what the normal levels are supposed to be and what mine are, and although the balance is not too bad at the moment, there is indeed a need for an increase in thyroxine to normalise the activity of the messages going to the thyroide.
What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism ?
The majority of people who are touched by hypothyroidism are in their fifties, although an early menopause can also cause the thyroide to malfunction. If you think that by this time in your life, your body is a little worn out and need of a service, you are probably right and it is worthwhile checking if you experience any of the following symptoms, although these can have other causes, so the checking out would consist of a blood test to eliminate the possibility of hypothyroidism.
Intolerance to cold is a particular one that I noticed first.
Tiredness and lethargy are other signs.
The inability to feel fresh after a good night sleep
Slow and sluggish metabolism.
Do symptoms differe from person to person?
Yes of course they do, although most of the above are relevant in my case, and if I notice changes in any of them, I do report to the doctor for what is called a control, or another blood test.
How is it treated ?
Hypothyroidism is easily treated these days with a treatment called Thyroxine. This speeds things up and puts your body back into action and it is very important that the levels of thyroxine are monitored monthly at first, and then on a three month basis, to ensure the stability of the treatment. Thyroxine in excess can be extremely dangerous, can cause palpitations, and hot sweats and actually endanger life, so that the regular check ups are essential.
Once treatment starts - is it constant ?
My treatment is for life, although I have noticed that my levels change from time to time and the medication has to be adjusted. One of the things I hate about taking medicines is that I feel that introducing a cocktail of fabricated substances into the body cannot be healthy. I have been warned to take this medicine at all times, have missed the odd day or two by accident without consequence, but an interesting thing happened when I started to treat myself (under the supervision of my doctor) with natural kelp. This can be found in health food shops, although I would advise patients with hypothyroidism not to self dose as this could indeed be dangerous. Hand in hand with your doctor, you can slowly introduce kelp and what happens is that it reduces the level of fabricated medication that I need to take, which I feel is good news for my body.
Later stages of hypothyroidism
The symptoms listed above are ones that a person has in the early stages of detection. Later, skin flakes, you find that hair loss happens, numbing sensations occur in arms and legs occasionally, but none of this is as drastic as it sounds, as most things can be balanced by good diet, and products that are easily available to help the body replenish things that it lacks. For example, a shampoo that thickens can help with hair loss, and there are many creams aimed at older people that will help their skin flakiness to stay at a minimum.
Who gets hypothyroidism ?
Believe it or not, the majority of people suffering this are us women. Insuline dependent individuals can also suffer from this, and it does happen to be heritary although it can skip generations. It can occur in men as well as women, and also in children, although the majority lie within the area of women just before or just after the menopause. Did you know that one in five women will actually suffer from this after the age of sixty ?
How does it make an individual feel?
Actually, it makes ife a little more logical. Once the diagnosis was confirmed, it explained a lot of the tensions and stresses I was feeling, negative feelings, maybe even depression, and made me feel good about myself because of having an explanation. It is a relatively easy illness to treat and to keep under control, and the medicine does not have any nasty side effects in my particular case.
What would you day to those who think they may be a sufferer?
Don't suffer. There is no need to. Go and see your doctor, get a blood test and sort out whether you have this illness or not. If you have, treat it logically, and put up with the occasional blues that actually indicate its time for another blood test. It is not drastic, and certainly the diagnosis of my illness explained so many of the negative feelings I had and the lack of energy I put down to other things.
This is an everyday illness which is controllable and not drastic. I have been treated and will continue to be treated for the rest of my life, and compared to other illnesses of greater significance, I would say that the hypothyroide patient has only these things to worry about.
1. regular blood tests to check the body's levels.
2. learning the ability to recognise what your body is saying to you.
3. Understanding either yourself or those around you that suffer from such an illness and treating your body in the best way that you are able under the supervision of a caring doctor.
The rest is a doddle !