Is it Allergies or a Thyroid Disorder?
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
Dry eyes (can trigger overproduction of tears)
Itchy, inflamed eyes
Dry hair, skin, and/or nails
Loss of muscle tone
Headaches and migraines
Frequent bowel movements
Joint pain and stiffness
Bloating and fluid retention
Shortness of breath
Lump in throat when swallowing
Discomfort while swallowing
Aversion to heat
Anxiety and depression
Tingling or numbness in the hands and feet
Tendency to flush
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.
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:
- Cabbage (especially if raw)
- Peanuts and walnuts
- Soy products (e.g. tofu, soy milk, and soybeans)
Avoiding these foods can help in your quest to encourage better thyroid health.
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.