I've recently been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, and after researching, have discovered that it's much more common that I originally thought. In fact, many people (especially women) suffer with some degree of hypothyroidism and don't even know it.
I thought it would be a great idea to share my story, and maybe it will help others out there who may be experiencing the same symptoms I did...
What is Hypothyroidism?
Your thyroid is a gland that controls many different things in your body, mainly your metabolism. Hypothyroidism means that this gland isn't producing enough hormone to control those necessary processes. Many times, this happens due to an autoimmune disorder that causes your antibodies to attack the thyroid gland. Sometimes it can happen due to thyroid cancer, or other conditions that leave the thyroid damaged.
Symptoms I Experienced:
I'll start by saying that for many, many years, I have been unable to tolerate cold. When others in the room were comfortable, or hot even, I was wrapped up in blankets with my teeth chattering. Sometimes, I would feel 'bone cold,' meaning I was just absolutely cold all over and couldn't seem to get warm at all. During these occasions, the only thing that seemed to help was a hot bath - and I took LOTS of those.
Another thing I noticed for many years was that I didn't sweat like other people...most things that would cause others to start dripping barely affected me. I thought I was blessed - ha! Also, there were times when I would just be completely tired - as if my batteries suddenly drained, leaving me absolutely fatigued. However, other than this, I felt okay. I didn't have much trouble maintaining my weight, even when I wasn't actively doing any exercise programs regularly.
However, several months ago, I began to feel really ill. I noticed that my concentration went from excellent to not-so-good to completely non-existent. I was grouchy, tired ALL the time, and always cold. Now, when I say tired all the time, I don't mean I felt like sleeping. I don't mean I could have taken a nap and that I felt lazy. I mean that it was HORRIBLE - it was an effort to move...just getting up to walk across the room felt like an insurmountable chore. This does not work when you have 2 children...and so on top of feeling terrible, I felt guilty because it was all I could do to muster up the energy to give them meals, etc.
I didn't think too much of this, because I've always had issues sleeping at night. I figured it was just catching up to me. Soon after, the muscle cramps started. It started with a few muscle 'spasms' - what felt like a charlie horse in different parts of my body - arms, sides, etc. Within a few weeks' time, I was having a very difficult time with anything. Putting on a shirt or buckling my seat belt would make muscles in my arms and sides 'seize' up, and it was incredibly painful.
I had also started gaining weight - this I blew off, thinking...I'm getting older, I work at home on the computer...I just need to exercise more. I also had a few really bad migraines...I mean, I thought I'd had migraines before those headaches, but apparently not. These made me feel like my skull was going to split open, and I was actually vomiting throughout both of them. It was the muscle cramps that really got to me. I started to think something was really wrong. One day (after the realization that I needed to exercise more), I decided to go for a walk. I got my MP3 player and took off out the door. I didn't get very far at all (embarrassingly) before my legs didn't want to work anymore at all.
Both of my legs became so exhausted...it was like I was losing the ability to use them. It was terrifyingly painful. I turned around and began to go home. I honestly wasn't sure whether I would make it home. My legs were in so much pain and it felt like I was walking around on tree trunks. It was hard to bend them, and each time I moved them, the muscles screamed in agony. When I did make it home, I was in tears. My family thought perhaps it was because I didn't exercise regularly. This didn't sit right with me...sure, I wasn't a marathon runner, but I have 2 kids so I'm fairly active. My little 'walk' didn't even amount to the number of steps I would take to run in the grocery store and grab something for dinner - and I felt completely paralyzed.
I can confidently say that by this point, more than one of my family members probably thought I was going nuts. Still - I called the doctor and made an appointment. A friend of mine pointed out that lack of potassium could cause muscle cramps and fatigue, and I thought there was a possibility I was anemic. When I explained to the doctor what was going on, I was told that there was probably nothing wrong with me - I was 27 years old and fairly healthy. She said that I might need more calcium, but she agreed to do blood work.
When the blood work came back, and the doctor told me that my thyroid numbers were low, I was so relieved. I was so thankful that there was a name for what was wrong with me, and that it could be controlled. However, she told me that most people don't complain about muscle aches and cramps when they have thyroid issues. Interestingly enough, after doing my own research, I found that it was one of the most commonly listed symptoms.
So, I was started on Synthroid 25mg. 5 weeks later, a blood test showed I was still too low. I was moved up to 50mg. Another blood test revealed that I was still too low. I was moved up two more times, and am now taking 100mg a day. I will have another blood test in a few weeks to determine whether my numbers are good or I need a higher dosage.
Within a few weeks of taking the Synthroid, the muscle aches were completely gone - a HUGE relief. However, it took much longer for the pain in my legs - every time I walked, I had that same exhausted, horrible pain in my legs. Now, I still feel it occasionally, but it's nowhere near as bad. I've also started to lose the extra weight I gained. I feel fairly okay, but I am still having some weird symptoms.
One of them is random swelling and pain - I've had this happen in my feet, my fingers and wrists, on my sides (near my ribs) and in my knees. It happens out of the blue, and the affected area turns red and hot, along with the pain and swelling. Most of the time, it goes away overnight. This is something I plan on discussing with my doc at my next checkup, and I guess I'll have to hope that she is willing to look into it. I also get extremely tired still, from time to time, but I still have more energy than I did have. Overall, I'd say I feel about 70% better - but I'm still working on 100%.
All THAT From One Little Problem?
This is what I was thinking - how in the world can one little problem cause so much pain and so many symptoms? For a while, I was really thinking that there was something SERIOUSLY wrong with me. I expected to get some horrible diagnosis...I was even scared to visit the doctor. But hypothyroidism can cause so many symptoms - it's just unreal. In fact, if it's left untreated for a long time, sufferers can actually go into a fatal coma. Some of the most common symptoms are:
- Feeling tired, fatigued - This can range from just fatigued to being so low on energy it's debilitating.
- Gaining weight.
- Loss of concentration.
- Muscle aches/pains.
- Being intolerable to cold.
- Menstrual irregularities.
A Bit of Funny:
While none of this is really funny, I have to point out some of the differences I've been experiencing since taking the medicine. I found out that I am not blessed and that I DO sweat. I also don't experience that 'bone cold' feeling anymore - and lately, I've felt our Southern Mississippi heat more than I care to. I will suddenly start fanning myself and saying, "Geez! Is it hot in here to everyone else?" That's when my loving sweetheart yells, "It's just your thyroid kicking in!" Ha! It's actually NOT my thyroid kicking in - it's the medicine, which I'll most likely have to take every day...forever.
Another thing I've noticed is that my metabolism has definitely increased...I am hungry. A lot. I guess this is okay, since I'm still losing weight.
If you're experiencing the symptoms above, have your doctor do a blood test and check out your thyroid performance. Because many doctors don't have the commitment necessary to really find out what's wrong with their patients (especially when initial tests come back clean because hypothyroidism can be difficult to diagnose), it may be necessary to shop around for doctors, or to find a great endocrinologist. This may be what I have to end up doing. I'll keep you updated on how I'm feeling, and in the meantime will hope that this post might help someone who could be having thyroid problems and not know it!
Image Credit: http://www.righthealth.com/topic/Congenital_hypothyroidism/Images