Are You Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired?

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By Carla MacInnis Rockwell

I’m no longer sick and tired of being sick and tired.

Recently, after I was relieved of a few vials of blood, needed to run a battery of tests, a follow-up with my doctor revealed I have hypothyroidism. As well, an appointment is set for 11 July with a cardiac internist to investigate concerns regarding function, given I also live with aortic insufficiency and have been experiencing concerning symptoms.

According to Dr. Zoltan P. Rona, it is estimated that over 200 million people globally (about 35 million people in North America) suffer from at least one of the many forms of thyroid disease. In fact, thyroid problems are increasing so much in frequency that scientists are calling it an epidemic.The incidence of thyroid illness occurs about seven times more frequently in women than men, and it is thought that at least 50% of the cases are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism, several of which I do not have, include: fatigue; increased sensitivity to cold; dry skin, muscle weakness, elevated blood cholesterol level; muscle aches, tenderness, and stiffness; pain, stiffness, swelling in joints; thinning hair; slowed heart rate; depression; impaired memory  — these are but a few. Be assured, it’s not all in your head, so don’t settle for a prescription for anti-depressants or sleeping pills. Proper/full testing is critical.

The gold standard to determine thyroid problems is a blood test to measure how much thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) the pituitary gland excretes into the bloodstream. Most doctors typically don’t run a full thyroid blood panel nor do they investigate fully the patient history, symptoms, family history and thorough physical exam. I’ve often wondered why. Make sure to ask for Free T3 and Free T4, reverse T3 and thyroid antibodies to be checked. It is your right to ask for any and all tests that provide complete answers.

Several years ago, under the care of my now retired physician, I had appropriate and complete bloodwork done as I asked for it; nothing remarkable. I attributed my fatigue to aging with cerebral palsy and the long-standing quirk with my heart.

When contacted by my current doctor and asked to come in for bloodwork, I decided that since I’ve been officially an ‘old gal with attitude’ for a few years now, I should just get over myself and do it. Unless there’s a gaping wound with bleeding, or a dislocation, I stay well away from doctors’ offices and hospitals. I feel for those who know that something is wrong and their doctor essentially dismisses them. Yes, they do. Thankfully, my doctor lined up all the ducks and ordered all the right tests and the truth of my recent health status was revealed.

The thyroid is said to be the most vulnerable component of the endocrine system, and when its function is put at risk all manner of things can go wrong in quick succession. As example, maternal hypothyroidism is implicated in causing conditions like cerebral palsy, Asperger’s Syndrome, Autusim, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Bipolar disorder among other conditions. In my genetic profile, all of those conditions exist amongst family members. As well, untreated maternal hypothyroidism causes miscarriages. In my own recollection, my mother had a few, so it’s possible that in carrying me, she also carried the disease along with us. Speculative, certainly, but points to ponder nonetheless. To my recollection, I was never tested for thyroid disorder as a child. Today, infants presenting with conditions like cerebral palsy are routinely tested and if the thyroid is found to be deficient in function, then interventions are introduced. Sometimes, a lot of the symptoms associated with a condition like cerebral palsy can be minimized or reversed in those early days and weeks of life. That is not to say that the condition will no longer exist but that impact of such a brain insult will potentially be considerably lessened if the culprit of a thyroid disorder is treated early.

Currently, I’m taking 0.05mg of Synthyroid daily – late night/middle of the night when the old dog wakes me up. I opted not to take it in the morning as it’s best not taken with food or coffee.

Even with Synthroid treatment, some patients may still be symptomatic, finding relief with the addition of another thyroid hormone known as T3, which is available through the drug Cytomel, or from medicine made from desiccated pork thyroid gland, which naturally contains both T4 and T3.

After routine blood tests, it has been determined  that and the current dosage of Synthroid is working. So far, I can say I FEEL GOOD. I promise not to sing.

Carla MacInnis Rockwell is a freelance writer and disability rights advocate living outside Fredericton, NB with her aging Australian silky terrier and a rambunctious Maltese. She can be reached via email at carmacrockwell@xplornet.ca

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