U is for… Underactive Thyroid

My friend has just been diagnosed with an underactive thyroid also known as hypothyroidism or myxoedema.

She’s been describing her symptoms to me with incredulation and as I’ve suffered with one since I was around 17 years old I don’t really register the symptoms anymore, they are just THERE, all the time and I accept them.

So when she said to me today that she’d gone back to the doctor in a panic with pins and needles – I said “oh yeh I get that” and she said she kept forgetting stuff, so I said “oh yeh I do that” and so on, and so on, it soon became apparent that there are a whole heap of symptoms that they don’t tell you about.

Here are some of mine:

Pins & Needles/Numbness – get this all the time, sometimes a lot worse than others, I generally ignore it. Specifically I have pins and needles in my left arm nearly all the time. It is also generally colder than my right arm.

Coldness – I quite often have cold hands/feet. Also, if I get cold I get REALLY cold, teeth chattering the whole nine yards.

Hotness – conversely, if I get too hot, I get REALLY hot and find it hard to cool down. Let’s say if I were a boiler I recon they’d say I had a dodgy thermostat.

Palpitations – tricky one this, I prefer my thyroid to run on the upper limit of the vast range of ‘normal’, a down-side of this is that sometimes, especially at night, I get palpitations. Suspect am meant to mention this to the GP but then they’d lower the dose, and I don’t want that.

Weight gain/loss – this depends where I am in the aforementioned vast range of ‘normal’, again I prefer to run on the upper limit as it means that I don’t put on weight, and that if I diet I can lose weight. If I am in the middle or lower range then I gain weight unless I eat less than 800 calories a day. Good game.

Hair colour – my hair doesn’t respond as hair dressers expect it to. I do warn them that the colour wont do what they expect, but each new hairdresser has to find out for themselves. “It shouldn’t do that” they always say.

Hair texture – it can snap off sometimes as it becomes dry and brittle, I’ve never worked out whether that is worse when under/over.

Dry skin – as above really, lots of moisturiser needed.

Goitre – a swelling in the neck, I had this for a few years, they zapped me with radioactive stuff and it went down. Cool huh.

Forgetfulness – this is awful and embarrassing. Some things I can remember, somethings I can’t. Simple as. No rhyme or reason to it. I have no control over it and it doesn’t mean I love you any less.

Intellect – this one I think I mind the most. When I am running at the upper level I can think clearly, I can converse eloquently, big words spring to mind easily and a witty retort is never far away. When it’s middle or lower I am a brain dead numpty. As the levels drop down it is as though bits of me literally get switched off.

Indecision – not sure this is actually down to my thyroid but I’m blaming it anyway. Sometimes I make quick decisions, usually the more important something is, the quicker I decide. If, however, I have a choice of say Heinz Salad Cream or Hellmans Mayo to go on my salad, I can honestly sit there for minutes weighing it up. Apparently this is reasonably annoying… The same can apply to tea and coffee half way through the day – the girls at work are used to me having to think about it!

Expression – my face changes depending upon the levels. I think (hope) I am the only one who can see it but it is definitely true – I look like a completely different person in some photos.

Energy – sometimes I have none. None at all. Getting up to make a cup of tea seems impossible – don’t get me wrong, I still have to and I have to sort the boys out and get to work, but it’s a bloody achievement. Othertimes I’ve done things before I even realise that they need doing.

Tiredness – sometimes I could sleep forever. Othertimes I can’t sleep at all – even though I’m tired.

Fertility – it can affect you in this area, I’ve had 2 miscarriages, no idea if they are linked to it.

Voice – it gets deeper (shall we say huskier, that sounds better right?) when the levels are lower.

Personality – when it’s running right I seek out people, I want to converse and learn and play. When it’s not I want to curl up, draw the curtains and can you bugger off please.

That’ll do for now, truth is there are probably more and I’ve probably forgotten them 😉

The only plus point is that I get free prescriptions because of it – I have to take thyroxine for the rest of my life and the only way they can ensure people do that is to give them free prescriptions I guess?

If any of the symptoms ring a bell with you – go see your GP.