Earlier this week, I received a call that I’ve been wanting for years. It was my Endocrinologist – and she was calling to tell me that my hypothyroidism was finally under control. I was ecstatic – after nearly 15 years of taking medicine, having blood tests, and feeling ill, I was finally getting the treatment I needed.
I was first diagnosed with hypothyroidism (also known as underactive thyroid) nearly 15 years ago. When I received the diagnosis, I had never heard of the disease, and wasn’t quite sure what it meant. I was given a prescription for Synthroid, a synthetic thyroid hormone, and told to come back in a few months for a recheck.
After a few years, my initial dose of Synthroid began to stop working. But I didn’t know it. The symptoms were so gradual, I hardly noticed them at all. When I went in for a routine physical, my physician tested my thyroid noted that my levels were off, and increased my dosage. This went on for years and years. I’d visit my physician, have blood drawn, and find that my levels were off. Sometimes she’d increase my dosage by a small amount, and sometimes she’d try the ‘wait and see’ approach, asking me to come back in six months.
Last summer I’d finally had it. When I went in for a check-up, my thyroid levels were off the charts. And this time I could definitely tell. My TSH (Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone), which is supposed to be between 0.30 and 5.50, was at 138.66! I came home and immediately made an appointment with an Endocrinologist, a physician who specializes thyroid disease.
From what I’ve read, having an underactive thyroid can affect people in a lot of different ways. In my experience, my underactive thyroid caused the following symptoms:
Body Temperature: I was freezing. All the time. In the winter, I would be so cold that I couldn’t sleep. Even if I used a heated blanket, I simply couldn’t stay warm. My hands were always cold, too. In fact, they were so cold that when The Goose was a baby, my hand grazed his skin as I was changing his diaper and he let out a scream that sounded so terrifying, I honestly thought that I’d hurt him. That is how cold my hands were.
Fingernails: My fingernails became so brittle and frail that they would break with the slightest touch. My toenails developed deep ridges that would spread across the entire nail. I used to cover them up with nail polish, but they became so bad that for the past two years I haven’t been able to wear sandals or flip flops. (The ridges are slowly clearing up – and I’m hoping to finally break out the sandals this summer!)
Mood: My mood and temperament have been greatly affected. I was often crabby, cranky, and felt a bit down. It wasn’t major, but I just didn’t feel like myself. I really didn’t like feeling that way – and it was frustrating.
Energy: I was tired all the time. Exhausted. Some days just getting out of bed and getting dressed felt like a chore. And taking care of an energetic child all day when you are feeling low on energy is not easy.
Hair: When my thyroid levels were at their worst, my hair was falling out by the handful. It would take forever to wash my hair in the shower, and every time I would go to get my hair cut I’d have to explain (again) why my hair was falling out, and reassure my stylist that it was nothing to worry about.
Weight: Over the past two years, I’ve watched helplessly as the scale slowly crept up. No matter what I tried – The Atkins Diet, The Dukan Diet, Weight Watchers – I couldn’t stop it. I’d eat low-calorie diets, avoid processed foods, and nothing made a difference. I was still gaining weight.
Memory: I was having a hard time focusing. I couldn’t remember what I needed to do throughout the day, and no matter how many lists I made, things were constantly falling off my radar. Add that to my weight gain, lack of energy and moodiness, and I can honestly say that I was not a joy to be around.
At my first visit with my Endocrinologist, she took me to have an ultrasound of my thyroid, and we found that not taking the proper amount of Synthroid for so long had caused my thyroid gland to shrink and become surrounded by scar tissue, to the point that it was barely visible. She assessed my symptoms, we talked about how I was feeling, and discussed my history of hypothyroidism. Then she did something amazing. She doubled my dose of Synthroid. You read that right – DOUBLED it.
Within two weeks I was feeling so much better. I was much more energetic, and that alone was cause to celebrate. My mood improved, because I was finally optimistic – I knew that we were finally going to get my disease under control.
Eventually, my hair stopped falling out, my memory and ability to focus improved, and I wasn’t feeling nearly as cold as I used to. My fingernails and toenails improved, and my mood was so much better.
It’s taken some time to get my dosage just right – we’ve increased it one more time since my initial visit, and two months ago she asked me to begin taking one and a half pills two days a week. I’m just so happy to see things finally improving. Adding in those half pills twice a week made a huge difference – I was surprised to find that within a month I had lost ten pounds without even trying. But I have to say, the best part of all is that I’m starting to feel like my old self again. And that’s all I really wanted.