Friday, April 23, 2010

T for "Test for Thyroid Today"

Four years back, when I was struggling to lose the weight I had put on between my two pregnancies, someone told me I should get my thyroid levels checked 'just in case'. Though I knew that one in five women was likely to suffer from a thyroid condition sometime during their lifetime, I never took the advice seriously. And when, after a lot of hard work, I actually managed to get back my pre-pregnancy weight, I shoved all thoughts of a potential thyroid condition into the attic of my mind.

Exactly a year back, I went to a gynaecologist for a routine check-up, and since I was getting a whole bunch of blood tests done, he asked me to get my TSH levels checked because as many as 35% of women over the age of 35 had a thyroid condition. I paid for the test, but never got down to picking up the report.

It was only when I was getting a battery of tests done prior to my hysterectomy that I found that the TSH levels in my blood were three times higher than the highest value in the normal range. I had been carrying a serious condition around for months, without even being aware of it.

Anyone I spoke to was amazed when I mentioned my condition to them. The most visible symptom of hypothyroidism is excessive weight gain- I had actually lost upto 10 kilogrammes and kept it off for over two years. Fatigue and lack of stamina were the next symptoms people looked for- a person who could run 10 kilometers did not particularly fit the bill. Depression, hair loss, ... none of the symptoms really fit. Sure I was snappy and irritable, but I chose to attribute it to the attitudes of some of the imbeciles I was surrounded by.

I had hypothyroidism, without displaying any of the symptoms associated with the condition, and I would never have found out about it if not for a purely routine test.

It is estimated that 59 million people in the US have a thyroid condition, but less than 20 million of them are diagnosed. My case was special, because I did not diaplay any of the symptoms. But think about the symptoms - weight gain, depression, fatigue, stress - they could be symptoms of a thyroid condition, or the manifestation of your lifestyle choices. When they feel tired or depressed, most women blame themselves- how many even think of getting tested for a thyroid imbalance?

It could be you, your mother, your sister, your daughter, your cousin, your best friend, your colleague, or it could be nobody you know. Get tested for Thyroid- all it takes is one pin-prick and a little bit of blood.

Edited to add - Ellie had an experience very similar to mine. She didn't gain weight, but couldn't lose the weight from the last pregnancy. She was tired. It took 3 years before she was finally diagnosed as having Hashimoto's.
Don't wait, just get tested. That one pill a day makes all the difference.
Top 10 things people should know about thyroid disorders.


Lisa said...

I should do that! I'm struggling to lose ANY weight at all. I don't have a lot to lose, but I work out a lot and not much is happening. Thanks for the info Rayna and glad you found out!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Rayna, I think I should get tested too. I've piled on a lot of weight in a short amount of time. It doesn't hurt to check these things out.

Grammy said...

Really interesting! I am somewhat low on energy sometimes, but it may have something to do with my age (77 next month) and my CHF. Ha. Thank you for the info, and I hope you are okay.

Faith Pray said...

I'm glad you called attention to this one. I for one am very glad I have ongoing thyroid treatment to help stabilize my system, and I'm glad your condition was discovered before it became worse!

Elisabeth said...

Thanks for the information. The trouble is, as you suggest, if you have no symptoms you have to rely on routine tests, but still I imagine most people would have symptoms.


Thanks for the advice, at the moment I am waiting for the results of a cervical smear test.
Last year mine was "Abnormal" and I had to go to the hospital for a futher test, that showed up that my cervix was inflamed.....but no show of cancer, but to repeat a test at the doctors in 6 months.well that six months was last week and I am terrified of the result.
Anyway I hope your test goes off ok.
Take care.

Al said...

My sister-in-law and a good friend both had Hashimoto's thyroiditis without knowing. It is well worth checking.


Publish or Perish

slommler said...

I had mine tested several years back and my thyroid was off balance as well. I take a little white pill everyday. No biggey! Glad you had it checked.

Mason Canyon said...

I never realized the percent of women over 35 that have it. I'm like you, I thought you had to have the symptoms to have the problem. Thanks for the wake call.

Thoughts in Progress

Mason Canyon said...

I got to thinking about your post and forgot to tell you I have an award for you.

Thoughts in Progress

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I was tested several years ago after losing a bunch of weight, but all was normal. Might be time for another test, just in case.

dipali said...

I was fortunate enough to have a doctor who had me tested for it when in doubt, regarding some symptoms. I was a borderline hypothyroid for some years. I've been on thyroid medicine for a while now, so has my elder daughter.

Anonymous said...

Great post - thanks for pointing this out to us.

Jaydee Morgan said...

Very informative post. I guess regular checkups and tests can never hurt.

Watery Tart said...

I had no idea so many people had an imbalance! The discrepancy between who has it and who knows also looks REALLY high. Great info, Natasha! (and a good reminder that maybe I should ask at my next check up)--though honestly, when I'm crabby, I usually just blame my imbeciles and irritants, too (aka: family)

Sugar said...

I have hypothyroidism also. It is a bummer, when I really want that extra energy for something, but I try not to focus on it. I thought taking the pill would help, but I've been on it for years and haven't noticed much difference. Although my levels are almost "normal".
good luck and thanks for bringing this topic up :)

Anonymous said...

I was tested about 10 years ago after gaining some weight... probably time to get tested for it again since I am having no luck losing weight and can identify with some other symptoms too. I think it is so easy to attribute those symptoms to just having a busy life, juggling too much, etc. The doctors don't help sometimes either. :( Thanks so much for posting on this!

Marjorie said...

Those are some pretty unsettling statistics. I'm not even 30 yet, but perhaps I should look at getting mine checked anyway.

Donna B said...

Interesting post...stopped in to say HI to you and the two little ones...Bless you all.

Not enough hours! said...

@ Lisa – after 35, you apparently need to exercise one hour a day just to stay where you are. That could be the reason you are not losing any (especially since you say you don’t’ have much to lose). But why take a chance?

@ Niki – precisely. Better to know than not to.

@ Ruby – if I am anywhere near as active as you are at 77, I would be so happy.

@ Faith – that’s horrible. Yes, I was lucky mine got caught before it got out of hand

@ Elisabeth – most people do have symptoms, but because those symptoms could be due to so many other reasons (which woman is not fatigued all the time), we tend to ignore it

@ Yvonne – it is scary when tests don’t come out negative. But the relief when the deeper tests come out negative is something else.

@ Al – scary.

@ SueAnn – I pop the same pill myself!!!

@ Mason – the statistics are scary. And I for one would rather people just get it tested rather than not.

@ Diane – you are actually supposed to test every six months.

@ Dipali – you are lucky the doctor caught it. Mine would have too, if only I had picked up my report and taken it back to him before it got a little out of hand

@ Fiona – get yourself tested 

@ Jaydee – specially when you look at the potential downside of not getting them done

@ Tami – oh yes, we blame ourselves for things which perhaps are actually hormonal.

@ Sugar – maybe you need dietary changes? Luckily, my energy levels haven’t got affected yet.

@ Melodygreen – oh yes, there are so many other reasons for all those symptoms. 10 years is a very long time- do get yourself tested.

@ Marjorie – doesn’t hurt. Though you have been pregnant only recently, and would have been tested then.

@ Donna – thanks for dropping by. And I do hope the house gets sold soon.

Ellie said...

I almost did this one, I thought Shannon might, so I decided to go another path. I have thyroid disease; it took me 3yrs to finally get diagnosed.
I didn't gain any weight, I was tired, couldn't
lose all the weight from the last pregnancy. I had more symptoms, of hyperthyroid then hypo.
I have autoimmune, it is called Hashimoto's.
I see women shopping, that I swear have it. It is odd how the symptoms vary so widely!
I think we should be tested at 17-18 before pregnancy comes. It makes a world of difference to take meds!

Not enough hours! said...

@ Ellie - that is really scary. And yes, you are right, given how much difference that one pill can make, it makes sense to test people early.
If you are okay with it, I am adding what you say to my post.

Ellie said...

Yes, that is fine! I have thought if I ever go into the medical field, I will be an advocate for this. Everyone needs to know their number; when they feel well. I had Dr tell me, I was fine when I was 3.5. I actually went to Dr went I felt my best and asked them to do the TSH. Why was the response. I said, this is the best I have
felt in 3yrs, I want to know my level, my number.

It is life changing, like a dim light bulb vs.
regular light.

Take Care~

R. M. Iyer said...

@ Ellie - I so totally understand what you are saying.
There are so many people I see who I know have hypothyroidism. Twice I even overcame my hesitation and asked them to get their TSH levels checked. One ignored me, the other snarled "are you telling me I am fat. Just because you are not, doesn't give you the right to insult me". The lady was not fat- she was just puffy in a very typical way- and she wasn't mollified even after I told her that I had the problem myself, which was under control through medication.

The Burrow said...

Natasha, you moved from Delhi to Mumbai, didn't you? I ask, because as a result of the move to a coast town you probably switched temporarily from internal hypo- to externally triggered hyperthyroidism.

Initially, your thyroxine levels were insufficient, so the TSH release increased, and thus the thyroid gland was made to grow in order to compensate. You may therefore have arrived in Mumbai with an enlarged gland (although not grown big enough to present goitre). Since Mumbai is at the sea coast, you suddenly became exposed to very high levels of Iodine (essential component in thyroxine production) in the air. Together with the larger gland and the chronically elevated TSH levels this may actually have caused thyroxine overproduction: restlessness, short temper, the extraordinarily fast weight loss - it would fit. In fact, you were lucky that your condition wasn't more severe, else you might have dropped dead soon after moving to Mumbai.


Felicia Martin said...

Everyone needs to add natural bovine thyroid along with their diet. It is a must.


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