Thyroid problems anyone?

Last week I went to the hospital with a heart beat in excess of 180 beats per minute. Would have been fine, had I been jogging or doing anything remotely rigorous, but I’d only been watching tv with friends and my husband. They ran a gazillion tests and they came up with thyroid issues.

It’s not that I’m anti-medication, it’s just that I don’t like taking medication, but it looks like I don’t have much of a choice right now. I haven’t had time to look up much in the way of alternative medicine, I’m not even sure you can treat thyroid issues with anything other than medication…

I’d just like to know who else out there has thyroid issues and what you do for it.

I’m not sure I’m the person you want to hear from, but I do have experience with thyroid problems.

Eleven years ago, a few months after my second child was born, I noticed a lump at the base of my throat, right in the center just above the notch of my collarbone. I went to a doctor who sent me to have a thyroid scan done, after which I was referred to an endocrinologist. Because the scan showed several large growths of unknown type throughout my thyroid, I was referred for surgery (one of the smaller growths had been, by chance, on the isthmus of the thyroid, so I could see it). Because of the number of growths and their positions, the surgeon ended up removing pretty much all of my thyroid gland. None of the growths was cancerous, although the lab report mentioned “the presence of giant multi-nucleated cells,” which sounded ominous to me. I feel happy to be rid of it, given the possibility it would have become cancerous over time.

Because I now have no thyroid at all, I have to take medication for the rest of my life. It’s been…well, incredibly easy, really. I take a pill when I first get up in the morning, and I go on with life perfectly well. I have a blood test done once a year to check my hormone levels, and if I feel symptoms, I go in more often. When I have low thyroid levels, I feel unusually tired in a specific way, as if I’m half asleep or moving through liquid all day, my skin gets very dry and my heels crack at the drop of a hat, and my hair starts falling out. I’ve been stable on medication for many years now, though, and I’ve only had to change dosage once in the past six years, after I lost a significant amount of weight.

Since you mention a very rapid heartbeat, it sounds as if you may be hyperthyroid. This can produce an irregular heartbeat, fatigue, insomnia, breathlessness, and chest pain. I’m obviously hypothyroid, so my regimen is intended to replace the hormone my body can’t make. For hyperthyroid, they often prescribe a high dosage of thyroid medication in order to suppress your own thyroid hormone production. This page describes the thyroid mechanism.

I take Levoxyl, but there are several different types of thyroid medication. The only tricky thing about them is that, unlike most other drugs, people often react differently to different brands of thyroid medicines. Once you find one that works well for you, it’s wise to stick with it. It’s not a terribly expensive medication - I buy mine off my HMO plan in quantities of 100 because it’s cheaper than paying my prescription copay for each month’s supply.

Some things to remember to make thyroid medication work best for you:

  1. Take it at the same time every morning, as early as possible (they say to take it around 6 or 7 a.m., but I just take it when I get up).

  2. Don’t take any vitamin or mineral supplements within an hour of the thyroid pill. They can interfere with its absorption.

  3. After you take your pill, wait at least half an hour before eating or drinking milk, again to let your body absorb it properly.

  4. If you forget a pill in the early morning, you can take it a little later, but don’t take it late in the day. High thyroid levels can interfere with sleep.

  5. It takes time for thyroid levels to even out. You may not notice a significant effect from changes in dosage for at least a few days or even a few weeks.

  6. Contrary to the above statement and to what the doctors tell me, I can feel a change in my body if I forget even one pill. By 5 p.m., unfortunately too late to take it, I start to feel groggy and slow-witted. I don’t suffer any ill-effects the next day after I take my normal dose, however, and I don’t get any more severe symptoms.

  7. If the simple thyroid test (i.e., the cheap blood test) shows that your thyroid function is “within normal range,” but you don’t feel right, persist in asking your doctor for the more complex (expensive) tests. For example, before my surgery, my lab results never got any lower than “low normal,” but I certainly wasn’t functioning normally. Be sure you can work well with your doctor and that s/he listens to you.

I’ve often thought that if I have to be dependent on medication, this is the right type to need. It’s not all that costly, it mimics the body’s normal function, and I have had no side effects at all. I tend to be pretty resistant to taking any kind of drug or having any medical intervention that isn’t absolutely necessary, but after the first shock that something had gone wrong with my body, I adjusted very well to this.

Don’t be worried about “taking medication”. Once you get your levels right (which can take awhile, just stick with it) it’s easy as pie. Very few side effects and you’ll be amazed at how much better you feel.

What they said. I can also only tell my story and you can decide what you think:

I started having thyroid trouble in '97 - I spent a year in the US and apparently the high levels of iodine contained in iodine-enriched bread (or something - my doctor explained it in detail, I might have misrepresented it here) triggered a dormant thyroid condition (I come from Bavaria where there’s not a lot of iodine in the food and hypertyroidism runs rampant anyway)

The hyperthyroidism was no fun, I can tell you - I had a pulse of 180 for a month or so until finally somebody figured out what was wrong with me (diagnoses went from “you’re imagining it” to “it’s a cold” to “it’s the stress at work” to “there’s something wrong with your inner ear” :rolleyes: )

At the end I had lost about 40 pounds while sitting on the couch, was shaking uncontrollably, couldn’t get up anymore on my own (muscle weakness), had hot and cold flashes, couldn’t sleep a wink because I was itching all over, my eyes hurt and were bulging outwards - I was about done.

Then finally, somebody diagnosed the hyperthyroidism. Apparently, there’s a couple of treatments where you take some kind of supplement (iodine?) that’s saturated with radioactive particles that attach to your hyperactive thyroid and kill any growth. My thyroid, however, had grown too large for that treatment and had to be taken out.

The operation’s not without risk but it was well worth it: Now I feel like I did before (if a little bit more prone to mood swings occasionally), I just take the pill in the morning like InternetLegend describes and that’s it. It was a little bit of a hassle to get the hormone levels to where they should be but now everything’s A-OK.

HOWEVER - if they hadn’t treated it, I would not have lasted for much longer. A heart isn’t built to withstand a pulse of 180 for an extended period of time, let alone your body the rest of the symptoms it develops. So I suggest getting treatment soon before your condition gets worse. Get a couple of opinions of which is the right treatment for you (as there’s a couple to choose from) but if the last option is the tyroidectomy, don’t be afraid of the medication, it’s not worth the pain and suffering you go through if you don’t take it.

I’ll throw my “yeah, what they said” in here. Once you’ve got your levels evened out, the medication is nothing.

My story goes back about six years. I had always been a trim person, but I noticed I was losing even more weight. Even though I was eating six full meals a day, I had dropped to 112 pounds. I was constantly shaking, but I attributed that to the 12-pack of Pepsi I was drinking every day. I was constantly sweating – I could spend a winter afternoon outdoors in a short-sleeve t-shirt with no discomfort at all.

My entire family was beginning to think I was a hypochondriac because of the extreme number of niggling ailments I was complaining about. Eventually I got myself to a doctor, and after weeks of testing, he had no answers.

I then went to a non-effing moron of a doctor, and he immediately diagnosed me with Graves Disease, an extreme form of hyperthyroidism.

I was put on medication (tapazole and something else with a name that escapes me right now) to see if that would regulate it. While it helped a bit, I still wasn’t getting much better. After about a few months, it was decided that radiation therapy was the way to go. One pill of radioactive iodine, all ready to be soaked up by my unsuspecting thyriod gland.

That was actually kinda nice – all the sympathy and time off from work of surgery, all for just taking a pill. :smiley:

When I was originally diagnosed, I was told that I’d be on medication for life. But after about year of post-radiation medication tweaking, my endocrinologist told me my levels we’re perfectly normal. I still go and get blood work done, just to keep an eye on my levels, but that’s now twice a year instead of weekly.

So, just so you know, this can be beat. I now live a pretty normal life – the Graves effects very little (things such as blood donations and the like). If you have any questions, or just want a bit of support, please don’t hesitate to send an e-mail.

It took me a while to realise that I was getting head colds at the same time each month. When I took a closer look at my health, I realised that I continually lacked enough energy to get through the day, often had nausea after eating, started to develop ear and chest infections on a regular basis, sometimes had irregular heartbeat or palpitations for no reason at all, developed regular bad headaches.

My doctor suggested a blood test which revealed a low immune system, which I had thought probable, and also an underactive thyroid. He tends to go for the natural solution first before prescribing drugs, so he told me to eat 100g of tuna, salmon, kelp or oysters daily. The iodine in them will stimulate the thyroid and that will stimulate my immune system.

So I’m eating tuna 6 out of 7 days and it actually works. If I go for long without it I can absolutely tell - the fatigue returns quite quickly. While I was sick a few weeks back, I haven’t had a head cold for a month and I haven’t had a headache for … more than 3 weeks now. It’s a slow process and may take 6 to 12 months before my immune system is working at the level it should but the little steps I’m taking right now are making a difference.

A bit milder than everyone else’s but that’s my story.