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International Thyroid Awareness Week 2020 begins on May 25th and continues through to May 31st.
The worldwide week-long event is a good opportunity for raising awareness of thyroid conditions, both how it affects those of us with them, but also the signs and symptoms to get more people diagnosed sooner. In this way, we can avoid as many people living poor quality lives with thyroid conditions such as hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s, sooner.
The World Health Organization estimates that 750 million people in the world have some form of thyroid disease.
Although as many as 60% are undiagnosed!
And of those diagnosed, a lot still struggle daily.
Could you or a your friend or family member have a thyroid condition?
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism Include:
- Sensitivity to cold/heat
- Weight gain, inability to lose weight
- Constipation/wind often
- Slow movements, speech and thoughts
- Itchy and/or sore scalp
- Muscle cramps, aches, pains and weakness
- Poor appetite
- Dry and tight feeling skin
- Brittle hair and nails
- Loss of libido
- Period issues
- Brain fog/confusion/memory problems
- Hoarse voice
- A puffy-looking face
- Thinned or partly missing eyebrows or eyelashes
- A slow heart rate or one that increases more so than a healthy person’s, after physical activity (e.g. after walking up the stairs or emptying the washing machine)
- Anaemia or other vitamin deficiencies
- Poor stamina
- The need to nap more than others
- Long recovery period after any activity
- Inability to exercise, or withstand certain exercises
- Diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Being overly emotional
- High or rising cholesterol
- Acid reflux
- Hair loss
- Easy bruising
- Swollen legs that impede walking
- Shin splints
- Difficulty standing on feet
- Joint stiffness and pain
- Fertility issues
And symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:
- Increased sweating
- Oversensitivity to heat
- Increased appetite
- Weight loss
- Dry, thin skin
- Hair loss
- Change in sex drive
- Larger eyes
- Mood changes
- Dry or gritty eyes
- Double vision
- Weak, less define muscles
- Aches and pains
- Changes to menstrual cycle
- Infertility or problems conceiving
And with Hashimoto’s Disease, you can even experience a mixture of these symptoms.
If you believe you may have a thyroid issue, please make an appointment with your doctor and have them test a full thyroid panel to evaluate your thyroid status. Your doctor may just run the TSH test, but it is important to be aware that this isn’t totally accurate on its own and the other components of the panel also need checking, especially if TSH comes back ‘normal’.
Where Can I Order Testing From?
If your doctor won’t test you for a thyroid condition but you believe you may have one, or if they won’t run all the tests you need, you can explore ordering your own from online lab services.
Medichecks is a popular place in the UK, where you can order the all important thyroid function test, Reverse T3, cortisol testing for your adrenals and thyroid antibodies to check for autoimmune hypothyroidism (Hashimoto’s).
Having a Thyroid Condition
Once on treatment, obtaining optimal thyroid hormone levels instead of just being ‘in range’ is important, as well as checking thyroid antibodies to check if the condition is autoimmune. It is for around 90% of us and can affect your treatment to get you back to feeling well again.
It is also important to note that having Hashimoto’s can cause results to move up and down, as if you’re changing from hypo to hyper, or back and fourth between normal and abnormal. You may also be told you are ‘only borderline’ hypothyroid, and it is important to know what this entails for you as well.
If you’ve just been diagnosed, check out these common FAQ’s and answers.
For those of us already diagnosed, we can gain awareness this week about how to check our thyroid glands regularly for any abnormalities, what vitamins may help us and what tests we need to ensure our doctors are doing on us. We should also be aware of what results we are looking for.
The Big Thyroid Jigsaw Puzzle
I always describe treating and managing hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s as being like a giant jigsaw puzzle. Each person may have different pieces to slot in to place before they can obtain good or even great health again with these conditions, but we have to work to find out what these are for each of us and share our own experiences. We all need to embrace being our own thyroid health advocates and understanding our health condition, and this awareness month is a great opportunity for that. You can find my book on how I got my thyroid health back on track on Amazon, here.
I also wrote a book with my husband around how hypothyroidism can affect relationships. Find ‘You, Me and Hypothyroidism’ on Amazon here.
An important part of awareness events is using them to raise awareness of the condition/s to those who don’t have them. Please see a list of articles you may wish to share with those around you, below.
- What is hypothyroidism?
- What’s Hashimoto’s?
- How do you treat Hashimoto’s?
- Can you cure Hashimoto’s?
- What supplements should I consider taking?
- Any books I can read?
- Any support groups I can join?
- What is the endocrine system?
- Should I avoid any foods?
- Why is gluten ‘bad’ for so many thyroid patients?
- Will I ever feel ‘normal’ again?
For many thyroid patients, they are also still living with lingering symptoms, despite being on treatment for their condition (I’m mainly speaking to hypothyroidism patients here) so delving deeper in to why is something you can do this month. You can live a good quality life with hypothyroidism.
We can also share any resources we’ve found to be helpful, for example, I would suggest all hypothyroid patients to check out those listed here.
Are you raising awareness of thyroid disease this week?
You can click on the hyperlinks in the above post to learn more and see references to information given.
Rachel Hill is the highly ranked and award-winning thyroid patient advocate, writer, blogger, speaker and author behind The Invisible Hypothyroidism. She has two books: ‘Be Your Own Thyroid Advocate‘ and ‘You, Me and Hypothyroidism‘. Her thyroid advocacy work includes authoring books, writing articles, blogging and speaking on podcasts. Rachel has worked with The National Academy of Hypothyroidism, BBC, The Mighty, Yahoo, MSN, ThyroidChange and more. She is well-recognised as a useful contributor to the thyroid community and has received eight 2020 WEGO Health Award Nominations.