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One year ago today exactly, I took a photo of myself holding a piece of paper that simply said ‘I am the face of thyroid disease’ and posted it online.
I’m doing it again this year, not only sharing that post in the hopes that it will raise some awareness on the symptoms and mismanagement of thyroid issues, but also with a new post, that I hope expands on the issues I touched on a year ago.
It’s important to know that although thyroid disease isn’t well-recognised generally and you may think you don’t know anyone with it:
- The World Health Organization estimates that 750 million people in the world have some form of thyroid disease.
- Including 1 in 20 people in the UK, say the British Thyroid Foundation.
- and The ATA say that as many as 60% are undiagnosed.
So could this include you or a friend or family member?
Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- Sensitivity to cold or heat
- Weight gain, inability to lose weight
- Constipation or 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
- Pain, numbness and a tingling sensation in the hand, fingers and limbs (carpal tunnel syndrome)
- Irregular periods or heavy periods
- 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
- Cold hands and feet
- Poor circulation
- 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
- Oversentivity 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
If you believe it could be possible that you have a thyroid issue, please make an appointment with your doctor and have them run a full thyroid panel. Your doctor may wish to just run the TSH test first, but it is important to know that this isn’t accurate on its own and the other components of the panel also need checking, especially if TSH comes back ‘normal’. If your doctor won’t run a full thyroid panel, it’s worth exploring ordering your own. Medichecks is popular in the UK and LetsGetChecked offer worldwide testing.
Optimal levels are important, as well as checking thyroid antibodies for autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s and Graves’ Disease. 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 could also be told you’re ‘only borderline‘ hypothyroid but still require treatment in order to feel better.
For those of us already diagnosed, we can gain awareness this month 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.
We should also share helpful resources and materials to enable one another to make progress in their thyroid health. I wrote my first book, “Be Your Own Thyroid Advocate: When You’re Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired” with that in mind.
The book compiles all the information you need to begin advocating for your own health, in one place and in an easy to digest format. It is a great place to begin when learning to advocate for your own thyroid health.
And finally, if you know someone with hypo or hyperthyroidism, please take the time this Thyroid Disease Awareness Month to learn a bit more about their condition and don’t be afraid to ask us questions! It’s nice to know you care.
Share your experiences of having a thyroid condition in the comments section below.
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 multi-award winning thyroid patient advocate, writer, speaker and author behind The Invisible Hypothyroidism. Her thyroid advocacy work includes writing articles, authoring books, producing her Thyroid Family email newsletters and speaking on podcasts, as well as being a founding board member for the American College of Thyroidology. She is well-recognised as a crucial contributor to the thyroid community and has a large social media presence. Her books include “Be Your Own Thyroid Advocate” and “You, Me and Hypothyroidism”.