By Sue LeBreton
Have you been feeling as if you have lost your zip? Is your energy level not what it used to be? There can be a multitude of reasons to explain away that lingering fatigue: a busy life, a new baby or increasing age to name a few. However, if the level of fatigue you are experiencing is a change to your normal state of health discuss it with your doctor. You may have a thyroid condition and both states; hypothyroidism (thyroid producing insufficient hormone) and hyperthyroidism (thyroid producing too much hormone) can cause fatigue.
The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of your neck. Despite its small size this gland exerts a powerful influence on your body, influencing all aspects of wellbeing, growth and metabolism. It affects the functioning of organs such as: heart, liver, brain, kidneys, and skin.
Scientists do not know the reason why women are more likely to be affected by thyroid disease. So we must be vigilant and monitor our bodies for even subtle changes and learn the symptoms of thyroid malfunction. There is a condition called post-partum thyroiditis that affects women after pregnancy. It can be particularly tricky to diagnose because the vague symptoms of fatigue, mood swings and anxiety can all be easily explained away as life with a new baby.
Post-partum thyroiditis usually begins with the hyper phase in the first few months after delivery and switches to the hypo phase. Even if women do not require medication during this sometimes transient condition, they should be monitored closely by a doctor. Others experience more severe symptoms and require medication in the hypo phase. For some women the condition clears up but for many it is the start of a lifelong condition.
Thyroid issues can strike at any age. Heidi Baxter began suffering symptoms of hyperthyroidism in her early 40s. “I experienced unexplained weight loss and heart palpitations, especially when at rest, progressing to severe palpitations, losing 30 pounds in a month. I felt like I was going to faint if I tried to climb stairs or walk more than a block.” She was diagnosed with Graves disease which made her thyroid overactive (hyper). Eventually her thyroid burned itself out and Baxter’s condition swung to the underactive state (hypo). Today, Baxter works closely with her physician to monitor her condition. “It’s an ongoing battle. I have blood tests every three months as my organ rallies to function and my doctor adapts my dosage as required.”
A malfunctioning thyroid is much more serious than a few pounds gained or lost. Untreated, a thyroid condition can lead to serious health issues. According to the Thyroid Foundation of Canada, “Most people are unaware that cardiac disease, lupus, reproductive difficulties, diabetes, arthritis as well as many other health issues are associated with a poor functioning thyroid gland. Research has shown that early thyroid assessment can, in many cases, reduce the incidence or severity of these high profile diseases.”
If you are in your child bearing years address any potential thyroid issues because an untreated thyroid condition can reduce your chances of becoming pregnant, maintaining a pregnancy or can damage the unborn baby. Although you may not want to discuss your health issues with others, if you are told that you have a thyroid condition, please share this information with relatives. Thyroid conditions have a strong familial component. Shared knowledge can help loved ones seek early and regular assessment.
Sue LeBreton is a health and wellness journalist. She experienced severe post-partum thyroiditis that led to a chronic thyroid condition. Today, her condition is managed with the assistance of regular blood work and a supportive family doctor.
Some Symptoms of Hypothyroidism:
- Forgetfulness or brain fog
- Feeling cold
- Dry skin and eyes
- Weight gain
Some Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism:
- Racing Heart
- Difficulty sleeping
- Weight loss
- The Complete Thyroid Book by Kenneth Ain and Sara Rosenthal
- The Thyroid Solution: a Mind Body Program for Beating Depression and Regaining Your Emotional and Physical Health by Ridha Arem
- Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? When My Lab Tests Are Normal by Datis Kharrazian
• American Thyroid Association: http://www.thyroid.org