About 13 million Americans are diagnosed with a thyroid problems.(7) Having an autoimmune disorder increases risk for a thyroid problem.
After a recent test result of my own, it was determined (with need for confirmation and further testing) my TSH levels are too high. This is an indicator of hypothyroidism. Which means the thyroid is not working at the level it should. Cells can be dead, or it’s inflamed or there’s a tumor. This is where the further testing will be helpful.
What is a thyroid and why do we need it?
The thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland at the base of the neck between the clavicles (collarbones). It contains two lobes, and secretes several hormones (thyroid hormones). These influence metabolism, growth, development and body temperature.(1)
When Something Goes Wrong
There are many different types of thyroid conditions. These range from goiters, thyroiditis (inflammation of the thyroid), hyper and hypothyroidism, Graves disease, cancer, nodules and storms.(1)
Graves disease, and hyper and hypothyroidism are the most common malfunctions of the thyroid. Graves disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism, which causes the thyroid to produce excessive hormones. Graves disease is caused by a malfunction in the immune system, which releases abnormal antibodies that mimic TSH.(2)
Hypothyroidism is caused by a non to low functioning thyroid gland. It is generally seen on bloodwork (although a person can have hypothyroidism without an increased TSH level as a result of a pituitary gland problem), and shows up with an elevated TSH level. That means the body is overproducing TSH to try to stimulate the thyroid to work, but it’s not working.(3)
The most common cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, or inflammation of the thyroid. This is caused by the body’s immune system attacking the thyroid.
Feeling tired, weak or depressed, as well as dry skin and brittle nails, inability to deal with cold temperature, constipation, memory problems and changes in menstrual cycle are a few symptoms. However, there are many other things that can be affected by this condition. Blood sugar levels, fertility, heart disease, cholesterol and more can be affected by too much or too little thyroid hormone.(3)
Hyperthyroidism is the opposite of hypothyroid. The thyroid is over producing hormones and is overly stimulated, showing low TSH levels on bloodwork. Symptoms include nervousness, moody, weak or tired, as well as shaky hands, rapid heart beat, problems breathing, hot, sweaty, itchy and red skin, more bowel movements, loss of soft fine hairs, rapid weight loss.4 More serious complications can occur, similar to those in hypothyroidism, if treatment doesn’t occur.
Link between lupus (or other autoimmune disorders) and thyroid problems?
One risk factor of thyroid issues is having an autoimmune disease, such as lupus. The Lupus Foundation has released statistics from Johns Hopkins Lupus Center stating that about 6 percent of people with lupus have hypothyroidism, and about 2 percent have hyperthyroidism. About 6 percent of lupus patients have thyroid problems caused by autoimmune thyroid disease. This is compared to 2 percent in the general population.(5)
How do you know what’s going on with your thyroid?
A simple blood test can show a TSH level, which can be too high or too low indicating a problem. There are also additional blood tests levels that can be examined; T3 and T4 that are helpful in a hyperthyroid diagnosis. Ultrasounds, as well as nuclear dye testing can be done to determine if other things like tumors or nodules are compromising the thyroid function. Inflammation can also be shown with these additional tests.(6)
What can you do about a problem?
Depending on your diagnosis, surgery, medication, radiation and injections are all options for treatments. It depends on the cause, and the exact condition which approach is best. If medication is key, it is very important to continue to do follow up tests to keep your levels even and consistent.(6)
1 – http://www.webmd.com/women/picture-of-the-thyroid
2 – http://www.webmd.com/women/understanding-graves-disease-basics