Hashimoto's Thyroiditis is typically characterized by weight gain, fatigue, brittle hair, difficulty concentrating, tiredness, feeling colder than normal, dry and itchy skin, goiters, and my most prominent symptom—depression. At least, that's the clinical list of symptoms. Living with them without a diagnosis was a whole other experience.
Misdiagnosed for Years
I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's thyroiditis in my early 20s. Before that, medical professionals couldn't find the cause of my problem (eg, symptoms). Like many other people with this illness, I was misdiagnosed with depression for years before the real issue was discovered. I bounced from antidepressants to mood stabilizers, one medicine on top of another, side effects, and still felt heavy—both physically and mentally! It took me three hours and a good cry just to crawl out of bed to go to work.
One day, when walking, I found myself stumbling sideways. It could have been due to the mounting side effects of the psychotropic medications I was taking, but I didn't think so. I felt like something was wrong, so I made a doctor’s appointment.
During the appointment, the Physician Assistant (PA) ordered a blood panel and thyroid test. I already had my thyroid tested in my mid-teens, and at that time everything registered within normal range. I couldn’t see how it could be any different now, so when I left the appointment, I felt even more hopeless than I had before.
Not long after the appointment, the PA called to say my thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) level was high. She indicated I have Hashimoto's Thyroiditis; an autoimmune condition wherein my immune system had begun to register my thyroid as a foreign invader and attacked it. Much the same way the body attacks a cold or the flu. The PA explained that a high TSH meant the thyroid wasn't producing the hormones my body needed to function. Those hormones—named triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) suppress the level of TSH in the body. When T3 and T4 levels are low, the TSH level in the blood tends to climb. After years of being attacked, my thyroid became inflamed and stopping producing the T3 and T4 hormones my body needed to regulate my metabolism.
One Small Pill
The Physician Assistant prescribed levothyroxine; a synthetic thyroid hormone. Levothyroxine is often the standard thyroid medication of choice. A few days after taking the first dose, the clouds began to lift. There was hope in my life again, and it was all thanks to one tiny, seemingly insignificant hormone pill a day.
I was overjoyed for how good I was starting to feel, but angry that my first thyroid function test was normal. Why didn’t the psychiatrists who prescribed different antidepressants think of re-testing my thyroid? More than anything, I felt enraged, ashamed and distressed over all the years I’d lost!
Over the next year, I continued to improve. I could discontinue all the medications my psychiatrists had prescribed. Better yet, I could wake up in the morning and go on with my day. The symptoms were gone, for now.
Symptoms Recur; A Treatment Change
About six months later, my symptoms reappeared. After a lot of personal research, I asked my doctor to change my medication to a natural thyroid supplement, such as desiccated thyroid. Desiccated (dried) thyroid is made from powdered pig thyroid glands. Some patients report it works better than synthetic hormone therapy. Proponents of desiccated thyroid treatment claim it works so well because it offers all four thyroidal hormones, not simply T4 (like levothyroxine) or T3 (like liothyronine).
Talking with my doctor and asking for a natural thyroid prescription therapy was one of the best things I did to treat my manifestation of Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. Everyone's body is different and paying attention to the way your symptoms cycle is one of the best ways to determine if a medication or dosage change is right for you. For the most part, from my experience, natural thyroid supplementation requires few dosage adjustments.
My Health Hurdle: Accurate Diagnosis
Diagnosis is often the most difficult part of dealing with a chronic condition; and that was very true of my experience with Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. Once diagnosed, though, the treatment options for this autoimmune disease are so fantastic that the original symptoms shouldn't interfere with life, if they don't completely disappear. Just stay informed and involved in your own treatment, pay attention to how your body cycles throughout the year, visit your doctor regularly, and discuss adjusting your dosage with your doctor when you need to. The rest will take care of itself.