Living with Thyroid Disease – an Invisible Illness

Thyroid disease is quite common, although many people live with the symptoms for years before they are diagnosed. The thyroid is a small butterfly gland in the neck. It may be small, but it has a big influence on the body. The problem with having thyroid disease is that on the outside, you look perfectly normal; to anyone who doesn’t know you, you will appear to be your normal self, however, what your body exhibits on the inside is very different.

When something is wrong with the thyroid gland, it means that the gland is either underactive or overactive. Both cause many symptoms, but because the symptoms are vague, it can take a while before you get a proper diagnosis. There are around 250 different symptoms of thyroid disease. These include extreme fatigue, weight loss or weight gain, dry skin, gut problems, sleep disorders, mental health issues, and more. The main concern is getting doctors to recognize that you have a problem.

A Lack of Medical Expertise

The majority of doctors don’t have much knowledge on thyroid disease. They do see patients with it, but aside from the basics, they know very little about the mysterious thyroid gland. They use a blood test to diagnose the condition, but many fail to take into account the fact that the thyroid has far-reaching effects on other body systems. For example, most people with a thyroid problem have associated gut problems. They are also very likely to be deficient in key vitamins and minerals because these are not absorbed in the way they should be.

The Symptoms of Thyroid Disorders

If you are seriously ill, you might look for urgent care in your area, where a doctor will examine you and make a diagnosis. Many people with thyroid disease end up seriously ill, yet they are sent home and given all kinds of diagnoses for different disorders because their doctor doesn’t have an understanding of what is wrong with them. Several people are often misdiagnosed with depression and giving prescriptions that should not have been introduced.

Some of the main symptoms to look out for are weight gain, tiredness, temperature sensitivities, muscle weakness and aches, brittle nails and hair, and changes to your periods. If you think you may be suffering from a thyroid disorder, point this out to your doctor.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism develop slowly, often over several years. At first, you may feel tired and sluggish. Later, you may develop other signs and symptoms of a slowed-down metabolism, including:

  • Feeling cold when other people do not
  • Constipation
  • Muscle weakness
  • Weight gain, even though you are not eating more food
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Feeling sad or depressed
  • Feeling very tired
  • Pale, dry skin
  • Dry, thinning hair
  • Slow heart rate
  • Less sweating than usual
  • A puffy face
  • A hoarse voice
  • More than usual menstrual bleeding

You also may have high LDL or “bad” cholesterol, which can raise your risk for heart disease.

No Sympathy

It’s even worse for people with unsympathetic family members, who see you struggling to get up and complete your chores, or go to work, and assume you are just lazy and unmotivated. They may advise you to go on a diet or start exercising more, but ultimately this may make you feel even worse without seeing the effects. There is no tired like a thyroid tired. Exhaustion….it takes everything out of you. Simple tasks of light housework or even showering are daunting some days. I have fought it for about 5 years now and it is still a daily struggle. Luckily the superfoods I use and the diet I follow allow my body to perform better, even with the thyroid disease.

The only way to solve many of these problems is to research your symptoms and educate yourself about the thyroid. Thanks to the internet, there are some amazing resources out there. There are also some amazing communities who are more than happy to offer support and advice when nobody else will listen. Integrative and functional medicine physicians understand the background and the additional support and testing needed. Endocrinologists also specialize in thyroid disorders.

Don’t be dismayed if your doctor or family refuses to listen. Be your own advocate – knowledge is power.

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