It is official. I have an undetectable, undiagnosed mysterious case of hypothyroidism. It is the only explanation. In addition to my general malaise, my commitment to YesFive has been abysmal these past weeks. I was going to blame it on end of school ridiculousness, a computer malfunction that is making me crazy as only a computer malfunction can, and an undeniable need for good, cold Chardonnay on these late, bright evenings. Now, reminding myself of the symptoms of an under-active thyroid, I am pleased to report that my irresponsible behavior of late can be blamed on a gland. As a woman, I don’t often get to say that – it feels pretty damn good.
- The symptoms of hypothyroidism usually develop over several years and are frustratingly vague. To make matters worse, some are disconcertingly similar to those of a bad hangover, some mimic the symptoms of aging, some are the same as simply the normal state of being a mother. Now you understand why I think my thyroid needs to work harder.
- Symptoms include: fatigue, lack of energy, constipation, heavy periods, unexplained weight gain and pale, dry skin. Before you run to your doctor to be tested, it gets better. Other symptoms are stiff, painful joints, depression, muscle weakness, sensitivity to cold and dry, brittle hair and nails.
- The diagnosis of hypothyroidism is a relatively simple one. A blood test will reveal the level of your thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). This is released by your pituitary gland to tell your thyroid gland to make more thyroid hormone. If there is not enough thyroid hormone circulating in your body, your TSH will be high. If this is the case, your doctor will use some other blood levels to determine the severity of your condition.
- Causes of hypothyroidism include an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, treatment for hyperthyroidism, medications, pregnancy, and a history of thyroid surgery or radiation to the head and neck. Rarely, a pituitary problem can cause hypothyroidism. A family history of thyroid disorders and increasing age put a person at greater risk of developing hypothyroidism.
- Treatment of hypothyroidism consists of replacing or subsidizing the thyroid hormone that is missing. It is relatively simple but the effect of the medication needs to be monitored closely at the start of treatment.
My husband is looking over my shoulder and has self-righteously pointed out that most of my symptoms would improve if I were less of a hypocrite — if I followed my own advice, slept more, ate better, drank more water and got my heart rate up on a daily basis. O.K. My thyroid is probably working fine. What a buzz-kill. He’s sleeping on the couch.