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Case Studies - Hypothyroidism

After my first child by emergency c-section, my body temperature was very low and that was the start of a roller-coaster life of ups and downs.

I was put on throxine and ferrous sulphate (iron) tablets for five years. I didn't feel well at any time during these years - no energy, feeling cold, depressed and anxious.

I kept going to the doctor's for advice and they just kept saying my thyroid was normal and I needed depression tablets. However, I said no.

Other symptoms I had were: nails and hair did not grow; heavy periods; low body temperature (32.f before period; sunken eyes; breathing problems; didn't feel awake in the daytime; athletes foot; dry feet; constipation; confused; words would be slurred; severe headaches lasting up to a week; sugar cravings; palpitations and a sense of doom.

After no luck with the doctors, I went to see Dr Barry Peatfield. He said my thyroid was not working properly and also my adrenal glands didn't work. We did some tests and he put me on adrenal tablets (glandulars), Armour Thyroid tablets and some supplements.

After feeling better for a few weeks, I then suffered fatigue to the extent that I couldn't get out of bed. When I tried, my whole body would feel as though I was being held down with weights.

I have spent thousands of pounds on alternative medicine, reflexology, massage and acupuncture and am now seeing a nutritionist. I eat as organic and local as possible and hardly drink alcohol- the occasional glass of red wine. I do not smoke and use all natural products from soap to makeup.

I juice quite a lot and am still suffering with fatigue on a regular basis but not as bad as before. However, my life is on hold as I can't work and do not have much of a social life.

I feel at times that this has nearly destroyed my life as I never feel really well.

However, some of my symptoms have gone such as excessive thirst, my eyes look better, my body temperature has come up a bit, headaches aren't so bad so hopefully that must mean something.

I do feel that nobody understands. They all think you need anti-depressant tablets and that really annoys me.

I also feel that I have a hormone imbalance as I am worse two weeks before my period, although my periods are normal. I think positively and do meditation, yoga and walking.

I feel there is nowhere to go for help. All I want is my health back. If there is any advice you can give me I would love to hear from you.

11/09/2008

I was 13 years of age when I was diagnosed with an underactive thyroid. I am now 18 years of age. There is no history of underactive thyroid in my family that we know of.

The first sign I had of an underactive thyroid was a lump in my neck and for many years my Grandmother said she thought my mum should take me to the doctors with it. I also had heavy breathing, as the lump was becoming bigger and pushing against my windpipe. When my mum did take me to the doctors I was misdiagnosed as having a chest infection, many times.

Then as I reached secondary school, I found I was sleeping lots. I would come home from school and I could fall asleep at about 4 o clock in the evening and then I would stay asleep till my mum woke me the next day for school, and then I would still be tired the next day. At the time, I never thought that it could be an underactive thyroid and didn't really notice any other symptoms. To look back now, I realize I didn't just sleep a lot, I had hair loss, and really bad dandruff, which is still a major problem now. I also had aching muscles, which I still get now from time to time. Furthermore, in school, my weight was up and down all the time. However today, since being diagnosed with an underactive thyroid my weight doesn't go up and down as much any more.

When I was 13, I was taken into hospital as my breathing deteriorated rapidly over just a few hours and I was finding it really difficult to breathe. After lots of blood tests, chest x-rays, and having antibiotics put into my body every 4 hours, I was then diagnosed with an underactive thyroid. I was in the children's hospital for 5 days until I was eventually allowed home.

After this, for the first year, I had to see a thyroid specialist every 6 months. This then changed to every year. However, I still had to have a blood test at my doctor's six months after I had a blood test at the hospital. Luckily now, I don't have to see a specialist at the hospital. I see my doctor and have my blood tests done there.

At first my thyroxine tablets were 75mcgs – now they are 100mcgs.

Sometimes, I get days when I feel really rubbish and very, very tired but generally, since my diagnosis, I have felt fine and full of energy.

22/08/2008

I have been being treated for hypothyroidism for approx 8 years now. Although I have been on thyroxine for all this time, I can still say I don't feel 100% ok. Sometimes I can go for weeks at a time and feel ok and then I can suddenly start to feel very unwell.

The dosage of thyroxine I am on at the moment is 150 -175mgs every alternate day.

I find it very difficult to lose weight, I have been to various slimming clubs but every time I lose between 7lb - 10lbs I become very unwell.

I get very frustrated at this as I would really like to lose some weight. I don't always feel that my doctor understands how I feel.

5/09/08

I was a twin survivor 2lb baby and had a patent ductus operation. I was normal after the age of about 9 although I broke my left arm three times in school accidents. I had very bad period cramps from aged 16 onwards and after suffering for ten years using Nurofen and Mefanemic acid, I decided that although they worked quite well, the pill might be better. I needed some contraception by then anyway.

I was put on Microgynon. On the first day I had headaches and after 8 months, I had very low iron. My GP prescribed Iron pills - this I knew was a non cure.

I knew it had to be the pill, so I came off and my iron improved. I then tried Mercilon. This gave me noticeable chest pains – I felt like there was a big stone in my chest, although exercise was never a problem. My GP said it was 'muscular' and prescribed a pill for that. I refused this (we have heart probs in my family) and knew it had to be the pill, so I took myself off that. Not surprisingly to me, the chest pains largely went away, although I do still get the rare tightness when I sneeze. By accident, during some invasive tests for swallowing problems, it was seen I had a murmur - valve regurgitation. ABC cover is needed for my dental appointments. I now was free of all pills to get my body back to normal.

I was tired too and my weight and cholesterol was slightly up (4.9 to 5.6). Blood tests showed borderline under-active thyroid and then later, a very high reading showed it was over-compensating. So I am now told I will have to be on Levothyroxine for life probably. I am not pleased. The medical doctors must know that pills affect the thyroid but the leaflet with Mercilon does not mention it, although it does mention heart links with families with heart problems.

Once on levothyoxine, I found that the smallest dose of 50mcg everyday gave me headaches after 3 weeks, so I cut down to one 50mcg pill every other day and this dose is now fine for me.

Nevertheless I do find it disappointing that my GP did not think my chest pains were initially due to the pill and freely insisted I could carry on being prescribed the Mercilon, in spite of the obvious fact that this was the only pill I was on and the chest pains were new. My weight has now returned to nearly normal and I have minimal chest pain.

19/02/2008

From approximately 1988 untill 1997 I was attending my GP with excess acid, digestive problems, constipation and a general feeling of being very down, tired and very unwell. I was continually prescribed antacid tablets, laxatives, pain killers etc.

I was sent to hospital to see different doctors, had various tests done on my bowels and stomach with tubes and camaras, but still none of these doctors could diagnose what was wrong. And not one had thought to take a blood test. I was so embarrassed continuously attending my doctors. I had been round all three ten times trying to get well.

We all had got so weary. My wife made an appointment in my name, went and saw
my doctor and told him if they did not find out what was wrong with me soon, I would be dead.

My GP made an appointment for me to go and see him once again, and prescribed me a six week coarse of steroids. After three weeks I took a heart attack while on holiday in Dublin. I spent one week in hospital in Dublin before returning to Londonderry with yet more tablets for a heart complaint. And advice to change my diet as thay had taken a cholesterol test in Dublin and my cholesterol was over fifteen. I spent eight months on sick leave, but had to return to work still feelling no better.

I was still getting worse and worse and was sometimes confined to bed, so I went back to my GP again. At the appointment I could barely see the doctor across the table. He was just a fuzz. He took a puzzled look at me, then came round and looked at my skin and my hands and asked me was there any history of thyroid problems in my family. I said yes, that my father had an under active thyroid. He then took a blood test and hey presto I also was underactive!

Well at least we now had the answer, although I am annoyed that had this been diagnosed a lot sooner, I may not have taken a heart attack. Today I take two hundred mcg Thyroxine, as well as Omeprazole, Atorvastatin, Nicorandil, Atenolol, Amlodipine, Ramipril, Aspirin, Peptac and Co-codamol for a back complaint. My health is still not one hundred percent but at least I'm still alive.

Prior to diagnosis in November 2005 I had spells of ill health for about 10 years, followed by a more prolonged feeling of being very unwell in the last 3 years.

The spells of ill health included a lot of virus infections, recurrent sinusitis, bronchitis, cystitis, acid reflux, acne and periods of low mood and lethargy. I also had shingles in 2002 and a recurrent hoarseness in my voice which I simply put down to my job as a teacher.

In 1999 I went to the doctor with the sensation of a lump in my throat and severe burning in my throat. The doctor felt my neck and said she was feeling my thyroid gland but said it all seemed fine. I had a gastroscopy and was diagnosed with oesophagitis for which I was prescribed Losec.

At this time (up to 2002) I was living a very full and active life both at work and socially. I had a demanding teaching job in an international school which I enjoyed very much and lots of friends. I thought my tiredness/ill health was just something I had to live with and only took time off work when I had shingles (and even then, only a week).

In 2002 I decided to leave my job abroad and to return home with my husband in order to help my Mum care for Dad who had dementia. This was an exceptionally stressful time during which we had to finally take the decision that we could no longer care for Dad at home. It broke my heart to have to agree to put him into a residential care home and I found it immensely upsetting visiting him there until his death in September 2003.

At this time I was 48 years old. I had just suffered a bereavement and I assumed I was also starting the menopause so the fact that I was feeling increasingly unwell didn't really alarm me…again, I just thought it was something I had to go through.

For the next 2 years I had a whole range of health problems and I never seemed to be away from the doctors. I developed a very bad rotator cuff problem with my shoulder which developed into a frozen shoulder. I had very painful neuralgias in my jaw, feet and back. I had recurrent cystitis infections, sinusitis, coughs, severe migraines with vomiting, acid reflux, bad constipation, acne and periods of what felt like depression. I also found myself in a sort of permanent brain fog where I couldn't remember even the simplest thing. I had problems sleeping, in spite of feeling exhausted and I was extremely pale with dark circles under my eyes. In spite of all this, I kept going and tried to keep my mind and body in good shape by walking as much as possible. Each visit to the doctor saw another prescription, for another problem…I even had a steroid injection into my shoulder to try to ease some of the pain and I had weekly physio sessions too.

In June last year, I noticed my skin was extremely dry and that my eyebrows looked thinner but yet again, I just put it down to hormonal changes at the menopause and bought myself some expensive face creams to try to improve things! They didn't work. In July (2005) I decided to give up the few cigarettes I smoked in order to try to feel better. That marked the point where my symptoms just got worse and worse. I had two episodes where I ended up in A&E in a bad state…one where I had a severe reaction to a course of penicillin I had been prescribed for yet another bout of sinusitis/bronchitis. I had taken the same drug many times in the past with no ill effects but this time, I was treated for anaphylactic shock and it was a very frightening experience. The second time was a few weeks later when I developed such a bad migraine and shivers that I couldn't stop being sick. I was finally given an injection in A&E to stop the vomiting. No explanation could be found for the events of that day and when I visited my GP later the next week to tell her, she said that the menopause could cause bad migraines and that we may have to treat that eventually.

By September/October, I had started to gain weight quite rapidly and I felt permanently blown up/bloated. I was having real difficulty going to the loo and was experiencing serious constipation which necessitated daily laxatives. I put both down to stopping smoking. However, I was now starting to look quite ill and was unable to sleep in spite of feeling absolutely exhausted. My face was swelling up and my eyes just didn't look normal. My moods were changing and I was quite unpredictable…I cried a lot and I was unable to tolerate any stress at all. I was unreasonable and was starting to feel out of control of my body. I didn't feel as if it was my body anymore…..I felt as if everything in my body was simply closing down.

In early November I went to the doctor and asked for a general check up. I saw the practice nurse and told her all my symptoms, saying that I thought it was all menopausal. She told me that we shouldn't blame everything on that and that she would do a full set of blood tests as I seemed to have so many separate problems. Within 24 hours I had a phone call requesting me to go into the surgery and I had a diagnosis for Primary Myxoedema. The doctor said it was very common and that I would need to take Thyroxine for life but that within a few weeks I would feel a lot better.

Initially I was just so relieved to have a diagnosis for how I had been feeling….relieved that I hadn't been imagining things. Relieved that I wasn't in fact a hypochondriac! I decided to use the Internet to find out as much as possible about my condition; the last 12 months has been a very steep learning curve for me.

In fact I have what is known as Hashimotos Disease which is an auto-immune condition whereby your own antibodies turn on the thyroid and destroy it. I could have had it for years. When I was diagnosed I knew absolutely nothing about the tests which are used for measuring Thyroid Function, nor about the huge controversy concerning the levels at which people are diagnosed as having a problem. I knew nothing about the fact that you can have symptoms of thyroid disease for years (which can be quite severe) without it actually showing up in blood tests. I knew nothing about the fact that it can take a long time for you to feel better again ……

For the first 4 months, I felt dreadful. I was in constant pain which stopped me form sleeping…my muscles and joints were incredibly sore. My feet hurt. I was desperately tired and still very low. I felt constant gnawing hunger pangs which were not satisfied by eating and I continued to gain weight. My tummy was bloated and I still found it difficult to go to the loo regularly. I still felt as if I was in some sort of brain fog….little things required a huge effort. But I kept going, trying to walk 3 miles a day to help my body to heal and eating a good diet…and of course, not smoking.

I was very fortunate to find an excellent Endocrinologist who has helped me to understand more about the disease and who has kept a close eye on my recovery. Initially he tested me for Addison's Disease (a related auto-immune condition which people with hypo-thyroidism can develop…it affect the adrenal glands) but I am happy to say that the tests proved negative. The specialist told me that I had a very significant illness, that there was no measurable thyroxine in my body at diagnosis and that since every cell, every tissue and every organ in the body depends on it, it was going to take me a long time to heal. He told me to have patience, that I would eventually start to feel better, that my body would start to make proteins again which would kick start my brain, muscles, gut, skin etc. He answered all my questions and reassured me when I was very anxious…which I was….because I actually felt as if my body was dying.

Almost a year on from diagnosis and I am happy to say that I feel really well at last. I have lots of energy, look well and all the aches and pains have pretty much disappeared. My mood is better, my acne has gone, my eyebrows have regrown and I have a great appetite …for both food and life! Although I have gained 10kgs (a stone and a half) since this time last year, my weight has now stabilised and I am still well within the average weight for my height so I'm not worrying about that! I exercise lots…mainly walking, cycling, gardening and skiing. I still have to have regular blood tests for the next year (every 3 to 4 months) to ensure that my thyroid levels are balanced and although at present I take 100 micrograms of thryoxine daily, it may be necessary in the future to adjust the dosage which is why people with thyroid disease usually have their blood tested twice a year for life. Thyroxine has definitely saved my life and I am just so grateful that I feel well again. I would recommend any woman (or man) who had any symptoms to ask their doctor for a test and to inform themselves as much as possible about their condition. There are some excellent websites and I wish that the NHS would make people more aware of the condition.

Looking back I have been 'slipping' for nearly three years, but twelve months ago the 'brain fog' reached critical proportions.

I am a history lecturer and mental agility is my stock in trade. Spring 2006 wasn't a good time! I was no longer 'me'. I had been a lively, enthusiastic, capable wife, mum and academic. Now I couldn't think straight, the challenges at work were, instead of an exciting departure, frankly terrifying. And on top of that I was podgy, my hair was thinning, my nails split if I even looked at them and I had a niggling pain in my lower right abdomen which had no apparent cause: scans revealed nothing, chiropractic treatment didn't shift it and blood tests came back 'normal'.

My mother's family have a strong history of hypothyroidism and she and I were sure it was a factor but my GP, a lovely chap, said he couldn't treat me. I was doomed, I thought, to a slow, depressing shut-down. I handed in my resignation at work knowing that I couldn't carry on beyond the A- level exams.

At home my husband was getting frustrated by my inability to have a conversation - I couldn't get the words out - and I had given up hope of enjoying a love-life again. Or even a life again!

But then I found the Thyroid UK website and Dr Peatfield's article. I contacted him fearing he'd view me as a hypochondriac, but he didn't. To find a professional who expected the problems of diagnosis I had encountered was so uplifting. I took my pulse on waking, as he instructed, as well as my temperature and was amazed to find them so slow and low! I had an appointment the day after I ended work and following Dr Peatfield's instructions. Twelve months on, though there have been setbacks, I can say I feel the way I was 5 years ago and I understand my illness well enough to handle it.

My problem was adrenal as well as an under-active thyroid so it would have taken a sleuth of a GP to find it out - and a brave one to treat if the blood tests were 'normal'.
Thanks to Thyroid UK and Dr Peatfield I have a life back. He said 25th June 2006 would be the first day of the rest of my life - and it was!

Prior to my thyroid problem, I hardly ever visited the G.P.

When I was 22 years old, I noticed a goitre in my neck. I was aware that my mum had had a partial thyroidectomy due to a goitre, so I chose to ignore it for a while. When I was 23, I decided I had better get my neck checked out so I went to see my doctor. I was then referred for an ultra-sound, but before the appointment arrived I moved house and so I never followed it up.

When I was 25, and a registered nurse, a colleague of mine commented on my goitre so I thought had better go back to the G.P. And, to cut a long story short, I was referred for surgery. I had a partial thyroidectomy and unfortunately the goitre was papillary cancer. I then had a complete thyroidectomy and received radio-active iodine. I was then given, initially T3, and then T4.

This all happened whilst I was preparing to get married and my weight increased!!! During our honeymoon I felt terrible and slept most of the days away. I felt really depressed and kept thinking it may be due to focusing on my big day and now it's over. However, on my return, I had my thyroid function test repeated and realised that I was not receiving nearly enough thyroxine and so my dose was increased.

It's taken two years to stabilise my levels but now I feel so much better. I have experienced symptoms of both hypo and hyper-thyroidism. I cannot believe how hopeless you feel without thyroxine but when you do get the right dose everything looks rosy again.