Is it Allergies or a Thyroid Disorder?

Updated on January 26, 2018
tebo profile image

I was initially diagnosed with allergies, but a follow-up blood test showed signs of hypothyroidism.

Itchy, red, and watery eyes are often associated with allergies or hay fever, but they can also indicate problems with your thyroid.
Itchy, red, and watery eyes are often associated with allergies or hay fever, but they can also indicate problems with your thyroid. | Source

I have spent months trying to find the answer to this question. Although I had some symptoms of an allergy or hay fever, they could have also indicated a troublesome thyroid gland. When I first went to my doctor, he assured me it was an allergy. I asked about possible issues with my thyroid, but he dismissed that idea. As time went on—and I kept on taking antihistamines and eye drops to no avail—various people kept suggesting thyroid problems. I eventually asked the nurse at my doctor's office to schedule a blood test for me.

The results suggested I had a borderline underactive thyroid. My doctor then suggested I take iodine supplements to prevent it becoming completely underactive. However, he still insisted that I did not have a thyroid problem and that my symptoms were still due to an allergy/hay fever.

What Is the Thyroid?

The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of your neck just below the larynx—pretty much at the base of the neck. It is a very important gland in the body that is responsible for regulating metabolism. The amount of thyroid hormone produced determines whether your metabolism is fast or slow. It is also involved in bone growth and muscle function as well as respiration, heart rate, mood regulation, and skin, hair, and nail health.

Symptoms of Overactive and Underactive Thyroids

Hypothyroidism (Underactive)
Hyperthyroidism (Overactive)
Dry eyes (can trigger overproduction of tears)
Itchy, inflamed eyes
Blurred vision
Greasy skin
Dry hair, skin, and/or nails
Loss of muscle tone
Headaches and migraines
Frequent bowel movements
Joint pain and stiffness
Frequently hungry
Bloating and fluid retention
Shortness of breath
Constipation
Lump in throat when swallowing
Discomfort while swallowing
Racing heartbeat
Fatigue
Insomnia
Feeling cold
Aversion to heat
Forgetfulness
Increased sweating
Anxiety and depression
Anxiety
Low libido
Increased libido
Menstrual problems
Mood swings
Weight gain
Hair loss
Sluggish digestion
Tremors
Tingling or numbness in the hands and feet
Tendency to flush
Increased infections
 

As I have found from talking to others suffering from either of these conditions, it seems that some of the symptoms can be interchangeable, making it more difficult to diagnose. If you suspect you have a faulty thyroid, I suggest you ask for a blood test because this will let you know for sure. I was lucky that my thyroid hadn't completely bombed out and was still able to rectify things with an iodine supplement.

Whether blood tests indicate under or overactive thyroid function, there are interventions that can help normalize the problem. These treatments range from taking thyroxine or radioactive iodine to surgery.

My Initial Symptoms:

  • Puffy bags under my eyes
  • Watery, streaming eyes, especially on waking
  • Red eyes that sometimes felt gritty
  • Dry, frizzy hair

Over time, my eyes appeared to be protruding from my eye sockets. This is typically associated with an overactive thyroid, or hyperthyroidism. They felt uncomfortable and periodically ached. The puffiness under my eyes spread around my eyes as well. My cheeks also became puffy.

After much research on the internet and in books from the library, I am quite convinced my symptoms are all due to a low thyroid function—my test results were within the normal range but at the lowest end of that range.

Treatment

I stopped taking antihistamines, which obviously weren't helping since I did not have allergies. On the other hand, the iodine supplements suggested by my doctor have helped my eyes return to normal. My latest blood test results were also "more normal" than my first.

Foods To Avoid

Some foods are thought to be goitrogens, which means they inhibit the thyroid gland's ability to absorb iodine. These foods include:

  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage (especially if raw)
  • Peanuts and walnuts
  • Corn
  • Carrots
  • Pears
  • Soy products (e.g. tofu, soy milk, and soybeans)

Avoiding these foods can help in your quest to encourage better thyroid health.

Conclusion

I feel lucky to have finally found out what the problem was and to have a simple treatment plan. It seems to be a condition that can be easily overlooked when diagnosing because the symptoms are so similar to other conditions, such as allergies and menopause. Since the thyroid is important for many bodily functions, it is essential that it be eliminated as a possible source of worrying symptoms. I look so much better than I did with the puffy, staring eyes. I can now look in the mirror without freaking out at what I see.

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    • tebo profile imageAUTHOR

      tebo 

      21 months ago from New Zealand

      Hi Arlene and thanks for reading. Sorry I haven't replied to your comment before this. I thought I had and just found out I hadn't! I'm glad you found my hub helpful and I hope you are managing to control your symptoms. My allergies continue to be a problem especially around hayfever season.

    • profile image

      Arlene 

      22 months ago

      Wow Im so thankful that I had read your article I have struggling finding the cause of my sudden allergies,it started last year but now its gradually increases that I have to take anti allergy pills now the litlle muscle n joint pain im experiencing. For 10yrs I have been monitoring my thyroid gland thru ultrasound and lab test (T4 TSH T3 ) and they show normal until now. But I never take any thyroid supplements bec the test shows all normal. And now all of a sudden its showing all these symptoms, Im so glad I have tead about this allergy article of yours. Now I need more test to further understand what thyroid problem I have. Thanks alot.

    • tebo profile imageAUTHOR

      tebo 

      2 years ago from New Zealand

      Thanks Larry. Yes it certainly took time to convince my Doctor but my symptoms have all improved or gone since I have been on thyroid medication. Thanks for reading.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 

      2 years ago from Oklahoma

      Wonderful read. I have had family members with thyroid conditions, so I know just how hard they can be to diagnose.

    • tebo profile imageAUTHOR

      tebo 

      5 years ago from New Zealand

      It does seem to fun in families, though no - one in my family seems to suffer from thyroid problems yet apart from me. Lets hope you keep the problem at bay. Thanks for the comments and sending angels. Lovely.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      5 years ago from sunny Florida

      Both of my sisters are on meds for thyroid conditions and have been for years. Both had goiters removed as did my Momma.

      To date I do not have a problem with mine and hope I never do.

      Thanks for sharing this information.

      Angels are on the way this morning.

    • tebo profile imageAUTHOR

      tebo 

      5 years ago from New Zealand

      My symptoms went away too after taking iodine for borderline underactive, but it was at the very lowest point of the range and I was experiencing symptoms. Hard to understand why Doctors do that although it does seem common. They tend to diagnose allergies or depression or menopause. Just as well we can figure it out for ourselves. Thanks for the comment.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Hazelton 

      5 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Many doctors do seem to be reluctant to admit that it may be a thyroid problem. I wonder why. After I started taking medication for an underactive thyroid my symptoms seem to go away. He also keep saying it was allergies.

    • tebo profile imageAUTHOR

      tebo 

      5 years ago from New Zealand

      HI suzettenaples and thanks for your very nice comments. I still can't believe my Doctor wouldn't test me for thyroid when people who had no medical training could tell it was thyroid related. The thyroid is quite a responsible gland, but too easily overlooked due to similar symptoms. Thanks again.

    • Healthyannie profile image

      Annie Messeri 

      5 years ago from Spain

      Hello bac2basics - I think your daughter can be sensitive to a thyroid medication - skin rashes

      is a very commom side effect and about 275 people out of a 1000 will develop a skin rash.

      Your spanish doctor is right anti histamines can cause an irregular heart beat, and even sudden death syndrome.

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 

      5 years ago from Taos, NM

      This is a very important article you have written on thyroid. I have had hyper and hypothyroid problems all my life. They are interchangeable as you point out. I also had to insist on a thyroid blood test as my doctor was dragging his feet. In the meantime I had significant weight gain. Talk about depressed! Now, my thyroid is leveled, but I do have to take a smidgen more synthroid above the normal range to feel normal. It is quite a balancing act and patients really have to keep on their doctors to look into this. Thank you for an enlightening and relevant article!

    • tebo profile imageAUTHOR

      tebo 

      5 years ago from New Zealand

      The thyroid unfortunately is a complicated gland when it comes to diagnosis. Too many other things have similar symptoms be they menopause or allergies. You just have to keep researching and asking for tests until you find the answer and alleviate the symptoms. Thanks for reading and commenting. I hope your daughter finds some relief soon.

    • bac2basics profile image

      Anne 

      5 years ago from Spain

      I was very interested to read this hub as my daughter suffers from under active thyroid and is taking medication for it, but she keeps breaking out in a very bad rash, it happens every day and comes and goes with no rhyme nor reason. She has been allergy tested but the rash is so hit and miss that I don´t think the things she is allergic to are actually what causes it and have asked her to insist that the doctor send her to a specialist or she gets a second opinion, i did this for 3 reasons, the first being that it´s uncomfortable and sometimes embarrassing for her, the second that on a blood test visit to see the nurse it broke out and the nurse was shocked and thought it may be her kidneys causing a problem, and the third was my doctor here in Spain refused to prescribe anti histamines because she said they are bad for the heart. I am going to share this hub and also send a link to my daughter. Thank you tebo for this great info :)

    • tebo profile imageAUTHOR

      tebo 

      5 years ago from New Zealand

      Hi divacratus and thanks for commenting. I agree it is scary, and he would have had me on antihistamines forever and a day with no improvement in symptoms. Doctors don't like us finding out stuff on the internet, but they leave us no options at times.

    • divacratus profile image

      Kalpana Iyer 

      5 years ago from India

      I suspect I might be having thyroid problems too. But isn't it kind of scary to know the doc didn't prescribe the tests for you first? We learn a lot through the Internet which somehow makes us the better doctors :)

    • tebo profile imageAUTHOR

      tebo 

      5 years ago from New Zealand

      Hi DDE thanks for reading and your nice comments,glad you learned something.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Very interesting, thanks for sharing your experience, I learned more here about the thyroid gland. voted up!

    • tebo profile imageAUTHOR

      tebo 

      5 years ago from New Zealand

      Hi Nell. Yes things are pretty good now. I still have slight bags under my eyes that I never use to have, but the actual eyes are all good - not staring, no double vision and I don't feel weird when I turn my head like I use to!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      5 years ago from England

      Hope everything is better for you now? nell

    • tebo profile imageAUTHOR

      tebo 

      5 years ago from New Zealand

      Hi sarahshuihan. Yes that is the problem with this complaint, it is often over looked. In fact this is the reason I wrote this hub. Thanks for reading.

    • sarahshuihan profile image

      Sarah 

      5 years ago from USA

      I'm glad you wrote this hub to share with others, and hopefully your experience will help others. I think that there are so many common symptoms for a lot of different diseases that it might be hard to diagnose. That's probably why people recommend going to another doctor for a second opinion :)

    • tebo profile imageAUTHOR

      tebo 

      5 years ago from New Zealand

      It seems amazing to me now how my doctor could have dismissed it with the poppy eyes I had. Every man and his dog seems to know that's a thyroid symptom. Obviously its quite common to miss it from your comments. Thanks for reading.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Hazelton 

      5 years ago from Sunny Florida

      My doctor also missed the thyroid disease. I finally had to change doctors to get a diagnosis. I am sorry it took so long for them to diagnosis you and glad that you have finally found relief. Up, useful, and interesting.

    • tebo profile imageAUTHOR

      tebo 

      5 years ago from New Zealand

      Wow that is amazing. I have read that if you have thyroid problems that your siblings etc may have the same problem. The thyroid tends to bomb out with some of us unfortunately. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 

      5 years ago from America

      One of our sons had his thyroid removed last month. Our daughter had hers removed in April. I went to the doctor a week ago for sickness and she said my thyroid was swelled. Strange for all three of us to have problems. Voted up on your hub.

    • tebo profile imageAUTHOR

      tebo 

      5 years ago from New Zealand

      Thanks kittythedreamer for your very nice comments. Glad you like it.

    • kittythedreamer profile image

      Nicole Canfield 

      5 years ago from Summerland

      Very well written. Voted up and useful.

    • tebo profile imageAUTHOR

      tebo 

      5 years ago from New Zealand

      Hi rajan jolly. Thanks for reading and your nice comments. Yes I hope it is under check. Thanks again.

      Hi rebeccamealey - thanks for reading. Glad you don't have thyroid problems, but allergies are a pain too aren't they?

      Hi BlissfulWriter - That book sounds interesting and I shall look for it. I had TSH and Free T4 tests. My first tests were TSH - 9.1 and Free T4 - 16. The next test three months later TSH - 10.8 and Free T4 - 0.5. My latest test - another three months on TSH - 17.1 and Free T4 -.01. I think the .01 is a little low now, but most of my symptoms have faded. I have been thinking about seeing someone who knows what they are talking about instead of my GP to decide what to do next. Thanks for your helpful advice.

      Hi cloverleaffarm - Thanks too for your advice. As I mentioned above I only had the TSH and Free T4 tests done. Now that my results are back to normal I have cut back the iodine, because I am worried I might go the other way, but I think I should find a specialist. Thanks for commenting.

    • cloverleaffarm profile image

      Healing Herbalist 

      5 years ago from The Hamlet of Effingham

      If you do not have your "thyroid antibodies" checked, tests can still come out normal, or near normal. Be sure to have your doctor check for these. If he is only testing the T3 and T4, he is missing out on one key illness....Hashimoto's, which is an auto immune disorder. Test will show normal, unless you have the antibodies test done. Be Well!

    • BlissfulWriter profile image

      BlissfulWriter 

      5 years ago

      You should read the book "Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? When My Lab Tests Are Normal" by Datis Kharrazian. 80% of all thyroid disorders are autoimmune in nature. So you should seek out someone that specialize in that area rather than a primary care physician that is just going to prescribe iodine. Sometime iodine supplements can make the situation worst and sometimes it can make it better. One can not tell unless one does more in-depth testing interpreted by a specialize. You can not tell with just one blood test. There are a variety of test that reveals different things. Some test are TSH, Total T4, Free T4, Free Thyroxine, Free T3, Reverse T3. And test for Thyroid Antibodies to rule out or confirm autoimmune condition.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 

      5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      This is very timely and helpful as I am blubbering with allergies. I am so glad that I recently had blood work done to rule out thyroid problems. Helpful and useful!

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      5 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Very useful and interesting hub and thanks for sharing your observations . Glad your throid condition is under check.

      Voted up/useful and shared.

    • tebo profile imageAUTHOR

      tebo 

      5 years ago from New Zealand

      Hi Nell, thanks for reading. Its fairly common isn't it - thyroid malfunction. I was a bit concerned it was Graves disease, but I don't think it is - I think that's more at the over active end. My eyes don't protrude any more or have that staring look. I think once you've got Graves disease it can only be fixed with surgery, but I could be wrong. BUT I did look like I had it, that' s for sure.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      5 years ago from England

      Hi tebo, I feel for you, I wrote about my thyroid too, and what a nightmare it is. It does sound as though you have Graves Disease, which is an imbalance of the thyroid. This means it's a bit like a seesaw, it can go too high, then too low and then back up again. I know. I am glad you sorted it out, and it does seem to me that Dr.s these days no nothing, a doctor of mine gave me tablets for a really high thyroid, and I ended up in hospital with really bad mialgia, pain in my legs, arms back etc, in fact I was literally screaming in agony, it was like a car crash victim without help. I had to read a book, diagnose myself and ask the doc for different tablets which did in fact work then! great hub, and so helpful to others going through this, and yes I remember the swollen eyelids and under eyes too. nell

    • tebo profile imageAUTHOR

      tebo 

      5 years ago from New Zealand

      Hi Jamie - That's great. I am going to have another blood test soon and will let you know how my levels are going with the iodine.

    • Jamie Brock profile image

      Jamie Brock 

      5 years ago from Texas

      THANK YOU for this valuable information, especially about the foods that interfere with thyroid function.. I honestly had NO idea. I'm going to see if I can find a good Iodine supplement as well :)

    • tebo profile imageAUTHOR

      tebo 

      5 years ago from New Zealand

      Hi Jamie - my doctor kept saying I must stress you do not have hypothyroidism, but we will put you on iodine to prevent it becoming under active. Iodine increases metabolism. My mothers doctor told me to have a thyroid test when he saw my eyes - His wife tests within the range, but has all the symptoms - she takes iodine and loves it. Broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage should be limited especially raw as they interfere with thyroid function. As should peanuts, soy products like tofu pretty much all the things I was eating. Good luck with sorting things out. I have talked to the chemist about taking iodine and he said the low dose I take is very safe - I take 150 mcg per day _ the recommended daily allowance. Thanks for reading.

    • Jamie Brock profile image

      Jamie Brock 

      5 years ago from Texas

      Very, very interesting.. thank you for sharing. I have just about all the symptoms above that you listed for hypothyroid... and last 3 tests have tested at very low end of normal yet the doc refuses to acknowledge there is a problem. I suspected I had a problem after changing my eating habits drastically over a period of a month and only lost about 2 lbs- in a MONTH. It's crazy.. I hope to find a good doctor at some point to get to the bottom of it. Wonderful hub, thank you for sharing your experience.

    • tebo profile imageAUTHOR

      tebo 

      5 years ago from New Zealand

      Hi Hyphenbird. Thanks for your comments. Yes I thought it was important for people to be aware of thyroid symptoms so they don't end up going down the wrong road of treatment like I did.

    • tebo profile imageAUTHOR

      tebo 

      5 years ago from New Zealand

      Hi CyberShelley. Thanks for reading my hub and commenting. Glad to hear all is well with your thyroid.

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 

      5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      Thanks for sharing your personal story. I am glad you are doing better now. Thankfully I do not have thyroid issues. It is good to have this information though so it can be passed on to others. You did well explaining it.

    • CyberShelley profile image

      Shelley Watson 

      5 years ago

      Hello, Thank you for writing this very interesting hub, it has helped me decide I don't actually have an under active thyroid. Glad you joined Hubpages and look forward to reading more from you! Voted Up, interesting and useful

    • tebo profile imageAUTHOR

      tebo 

      5 years ago from New Zealand

      Hi Conservative Lady and thanks for your comments. That is why thyroid so often gets overlooked. In my case my protruding, staring eyes should have been the clue. Some Doctors don't like you suggesting a diagnosis. My eyes still stream first thing in the morning, but the puffiness and staring are so much better. Hope you manage to control some of your symptoms. Thanks for reading.

    • Conservative Lady profile image

      Sheila 

      5 years ago from Surprise Arizona - formerly resided in Washington State

      Very interesting and thorough review of thyroid conditions. I am glad you have found relief from your symptoms. I too have many of those symptoms but mine truly are related to allergies. I wish you continued good health.

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