What Your Doctor Doesn't Tell You About Hyperthyroid and Hypothyroid
Thyroid disease is one of those illnesses that hardly anybody thinks about—until they find themselves suffering from it. You never see it talked about on TV or in magazines. In fact, the only time I'd ever heard of it before I was diagnosed was when someone was talking about not being able to lose weight. Because of this experience, I assumed that thyroid issues were insignificant and easy to control. I thought that once medication kicked in, it could easily be forgotten.
I couldn't have been more wrong. I discovered that suffering from an overactive thyroid was hell. Not only that, but the side effects of the medication, along with the way the thyroid can swing so easily from overactive to underactive, were even worse.
Take it from me, being diagnosed with a thyroid problem is not easy. In fact, it can take over a year to get your body balanced and back to normal again—and even then, it is something you must keep your eye on every day.
What Are the Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism?
An overactive thyroid can start to show up in quite a few ways. In fact, you may feel really healthy as it can speed up your motor functions and make you rush around feeling full of energy. The trouble starts when you notice that you have lost a lot of weight, your vision is off, and your hands start to shake.
This is caused by the thyroid gland in your neck producing too much of the thyroid hormone. It is a bit like the fight or flight stimulation caused by stress. And the really bad thing is that it can cause your heart to work too fast.
When I was diagnosed with Graves Disease, another word for hyperthyroid, I was told in no uncertain terms to go home, sit down, and don’t move until the prescribed tablets kick in. Why? Because if I had an accident, and needed surgery, it could kill me! Not such an easygoing illness now, is it?
Symptoms of Overactive Thyroid
- Weight loss
- Fast heartbeat
- Shakey hands and poor skin elasticity on the hands and arms
- Shortness of breath
- Stomach problems
- Racing thoughts and inability to sleep
- Panic attacks
- Goitre (swelling in the neck)
- Very heavy menstruation
- Aching bones and muscles
- Altered vision such as dizziness and afterglow: Imagine a photograph of a torch and how the glow from the torch spreads across the photo. This is similar to what happens when you look at something.
- Night sweats and sleep paralysis
Symptoms of Underactive Thyroid
- Weight gain
- Stomach problems
- Slow or stopped menstruation
- Depression (hypothyroidism is often misdiagnosed as depression)
- Slow thought process that may affect activities such as driving
- Blurry vision
- Panic attacks
- Poor sleep and nightmares
- Skin problems such as lack of elasticity or swelling
Graves Disease and Menstruation
One of the most distressing side effects of thyroid disease has to be the slowing down or stopping of menstruation. Even after medication, some women take months or even years to experience a normal period—and sadly, a few never see another period. Doctors have been known to blame this on early menopause but that is debatable. If this has happened to you, make sure you get a second opinion and keep talking to your GP to find out exactly what is happening.
Hyperthyroid on the other hand can make your periods much heavier, but strangely enough, online it does say that hyperthyroid stops periods!
As hyper makes everything go faster in your body you would think that it would make your periods heavier. This happened to me, I was using two boxes a day of internal protection while my thyroid was high.
In fact both hypo and hyper thyroid can cause something called Precocious Puberty. This appears in children younger than ten years old. These young kids start their periods way before the right time.
I think the main point is that thyroid disease can and does overlap symptoms.
Also I have been told through comments on here that Hyperthyroid has stopped their periods.
And I think this is the trouble. There is not enough research done on thyroid disease to figure out exactly what is going on.
But your GP should automatically make you an appointment with a Thyroid specialist. This is really important.
Do not let the doctor fob you off with his opinion! You must see someone who specializes in this field.
If you are diagnosed with Graves diseases it literally means that you have both hypo and hyper thyroid disease.
I always like it to a seesaw. Up and down until you can balance it in the middle. This can be achieved with Medication and regular blood tests.
Thyroid Eye Disease
Thyroid eye disease is another side effect. Your eyes will look puffy or strange, and your eyesight will start to suffer. You will also get watery eyes and pain. Not everybody will get this, but it is very common. Any thyroid problem is an autoimmune disease. This means that your body is attacking itself. That's why it's better to have a low thyroid than a high one.
Diagnosis and Pain
When you have been diagnosed, there are a number of different options for you to take. Tablets, radioactive tablet, and surgery. All depending on how bad your symptoms are. Your doctor will find the best one for you.
What the doctors do not tell you.
Now we get to the part that is really important. And trust me when I say that I have tried and tested all these! Not deliberately you understand, but by way of pain, trial and error.
For a start, lets take a look at the tablets.
You may think that the doctor will always give you the right medication. You have to remember that they probably have never had a thyroid problem so they are just doing it by the book.
But everybody is different. I was given a set of tablets called Carbamazole. To start with they were fine and my hyperthyroidism started to go down nicely. What I didn’t realise was the effect that they would have on me. I started to feel pain in my arms. In fact it got so bad that I couldn’t move them without yelling in agony.
Then it spread to my legs and back. The only way I can describe it is, imagine laying down on the road and letting a car run you over! Then being left to walk home. Yes, it was that bad. Every time I moved my arms, legs and back, it was excruciating. The strange, and very disturbing thing was, I called the doctor, and they gave me pain killers, not knowing why I was suffering like this.
I was admitted to hospital twice, and the doctor thought I had arthritis! In other words, nobody knew what was wrong. So, I did the only thing that I could think of. I bought a book about my illness.
That was the best thing I could have done. It turned out that I was allergic to Carbamazole, and when I told the doctor, he sat there, looked through his medical book and decided to change my tablets! I actually told him the ones that I wanted, and after that the pain went away!
Learn About The Disease
The second that you are diagnosed with thyroid disease, make sure you get a good book about your illness. Do not assume that your doctor knows about thyroid illness. They may have training, but they may not know how it actually feels. Apart from that, a thyroid illness has many symptoms—some very subtle and others more obvious. A doctor will learn the basics, and know what to look out for, but everybody is different. Its one of those illnesses that has so many side effects and different aches and pains. Unless you suffer from it, you will not truly know. It's not something that can be fully understood if not experienced.
I discovered that hyperthyroidism is a very different illness. I was literally in the dark, and the annoying thing about it was that the doctors had no idea. You have to keep an eye on it yourself. Simple as that.
If you are told that you may have to have the radiation tablet, make sure that you ask as many questions as you need to know. Its your body. Don’t just go in there, take the tablet and go home. You choose. If you would rather carry on with the tablets, or have surgery, let them know. Taking a radioactive Iodine tablet can make some people sick, and you must keep away from babies and small children for at least two weeks. Saying that, its not strong enough to cause you any problems. It has been used for years. But you must be careful hugging people and staying near them for a few days.
That’s where the book comes in handy. The Internet is good for information, but the trouble is that you have to keep clicking on different sites to find exactly what info you are looking for. If you buy a book, then its there for you, all you have to do is flick through the chapters. Take this illness into your own hands. Its not only good for your health, but mentally you will feel a whole lot better if you know exactly how you are going to feel.
Hypothyroid can be frightening
On the other end of the scale, hypothyroidism is when you haven’t got enough hormone in your body. According to doctors this is much easier to control and sort out than if its too high. that’s all very well, but once again, doctors do not know how you personally feel. A low thyroid can be a very scary thing.
Why? Because bluntly speaking, it can make you feel like an idiot. Harsh? Sorry, but it’s the truth. A low thyroid is frightening because unless you have someone who knows how to recognise the state you are in, then basically you can go downhill fast. I don’t mean to frighten you, but it’s the truth.
According to the book that I read on the subject, a few years ago a young girl kept going to the doctor because she said she was ill. He diagnosed depression and gave her tablets. The situation got worse, but the doctor still said it was depression, and never looked for anything else. The young girl ended up in a coma and nearly died because the doctor had misdiagnosed her! True story!
Why did that happen? Easy, the symptoms are very similar to depression. And the worse thing about it is, when your thyroid hormone is too low, you cannot think! Your brain feels woolly and numb. Even looking at something will take you ages to figure out, purely because your mind is working too slowly. Your eyes see, but your mind does not connect.
How the hell are you going to look after yourself if the doctors misdiagnosis you?! Trust me on this, it happened to me!
The reason why it happened in my case was that the stupid doctors knew it was too high, so they gave me tablets, and the radiation tablet, and sent me home. Not one of them said come back in a month.
So, without thinking, I carried on taking them. My face filled with water pockets, I couldn’t recognise myself as it was swollen, and my mind felt as thought it was full of wool. Eventually, luckily for me, I looked in a mirror and realised that something was wrong. Just that one little voice in my head saved me.
I went back to the doctors and he said, your thyroid is dangerously low! And quickly changed my tablets! The stupid doctors, the specialist and all of them put together never ever said anything about this! The fact is, they didn’t know! They presumed that I would figure it out! How the hell could I figure it out when I couldn’t think?
So please, please get a book, read all about the symptoms, what happens when you are too high, check to make sure you are not to low and so on.
Do it before your mind decides to pack up on you. Trust me, nobody else will help.
And before you say, well, my friends will tell me. Or my partner will see.
NO! Two points on this one.
First, friends are too polite to say, hey, you look ill, anorexic, shaky, etc.
And secondly, your partner simply will not notice! It's true. It's such a subtle thing; it's very hard to spot.
You're Not Alone
Even celebrities suffer from thyroid problems such as Rod Stewart, Oprah Winfrey, Kelly Osbournem, Kim Cattrall, Linda Ronstadt, and Missy Elliott—just to name a few!
Make A List And Stick It On The Wall
To wrap up, take note of the list below. If you find yourself in this situation and have been diagnosed with thyroid disease, make sure you:
- See a doctor.
- Buy a book on subject.
- Change your tablets the second you feel ill or in pain.
- Keep nagging and phoning the specialist, he is the only one who can help. GPs are useless!
- Keep looking in the mirror. If your face gets skinny, fat or filled with watery sacks, get down the doctors fast.
- Check your hands for the shakes, its one of the best signs of over activity.
- Check your heartbeat sitting down, running, and then sitting again, to see if it beats too fast, or changes normally.
- If you suddenly find that you are staring into space a lot, or sitting around without thinking, take more thyroxin and get to the doctors, your thyroid is too low.
- If your eyes start to get wobbly vision, get checked out again, some of the symptoms can either be too high or too low, they do overlap. Symptoms can feel scarily similar, so you may not know if you are too high or too low. Do not diagnose yourself.
- And last but not least, whenever you go to the doctors with any of the above symptoms, make sure you have a blood test. Never, ever let the doctor give you medication for depression without first checking to see if it's your thyroid that is causing your symptoms.
A mistake like that can kill you!
- The Thyroid Source Book, by M. Sara Rosenthal. First published 1 Jan. 2009.
- "Thyroid gland problems & disorders: Types, causes, diagnosis and treatment." webmd.boots.com
- WebMD - http://www.webmd.boots.com/a-to-z-guides/graves-disease
- american thyroid association - http://www.thyroid.org/graves-disease/
Questions & Answers
I've had my bone density test and prior blood tests and I've had my gynecologist run more blood tests. They told me that I have a hyperactive thyroid and to see an endocrinologist. My appointment isn't until 8/9, the first available. Should I call UPMC concierge to get in sooner or is waiting until August ok?
© 2012 Nell Rose