Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Surviving Hashimoto's Disease

I've known about autoimmune disorders as I've several. However, I was surprised when my doctor recently diagnosed me with Hashimoto's Disease.

What is Hashimoto's Disease, you ask?

Well, I'll explain in lay terms, and then get into a bit more detail.

Basically, Hashimoto's Disease is an autoimmune disorder with no cure. It means I have antibodies in my body that think my thyroid is a foreign object and attack it. So, I have to take thyroid medication for hypothyroidism.

Hypothyroidism means my thyroid is acting sluggish. It makes me tired. If I had "hyperthyroidism" I would be not sleeping, having heart palpitations, and basically on a speedy high.

First of all, do you know anything about your thyroid? In the picture, you can see where it is located.

From Wikipedia:
The thyroid gland controls how quickly the body uses energy, makes proteins, and controls how sensitive the body is to other hormones. It participates in these processes by producing thyroid hormones, the principal ones being triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine which can sometimes be referred to as tetraiodothyronine (T4). These hormones regulate the growth and rate of function of many other systems in the body. T3and T4 are synthesized from iodine and tyrosine. The thyroid also produces calcitonin, which plays a role in calcium homeostasis.

Lots of big words to explain that your thyroid controls your hormones. 

From MedicineHealth
The name Hashimoto's thyroiditis comes from the pathologist who in 1912 first described the microscopic features of the disease. Hashimoto's disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in iodine-sufficient areas throughout the world such as the United States. In general, there is a gradual loss of thyroid function, often accompanied by enlargement of the thyroid gland, also known as a goiter. Hashimoto's disease is most common in middle-aged women and tends to run in families.

Some of the symptoms of Hashimoto's Disease don't appear until it has progressed. It takes time to examine all the symptoms and blood tests before making a diagnosis. For me, it's taken about ten years.

Symptoms List
Modest Weight Gain
Cold Intolerance
Excessive Sleepiness
Dry, Coarse Hair
Dry Skin
Muscle Cramps
Increased Cholesterol Levels
Decreased Concentration
Vague Aches and Pains
Swelling of the Legs
Difficulty Getting Pregnant
Slow Heart Rate

Currently, I have about 11 out of the 15 symptoms. Fatigue is hard to combat. I must take each day as it comes and plan accordingly. I have Bipolar Disorder and depression comes along with that. Thank God, since my ECT treatments, I haven't experienced anymore depression. I try to relieve any stress or anxiety that my exasperate my symptoms by meditating, doing jig saw puzzles, watching old TV shows or movies. I read as well. It also helps to journal out my feelings or frustrations. Once they are out of my head, I can move on.

My doctor has suggested that a Gluten-Free diet would help with relieving the symptoms of Hashimoto's Disease. I'm going to try it as soon as I get it cleared with my gastrointerologist. I'm currently attempting to recover from an Intestinal Infection that pretty much has me grounded to home. I also have a lot of TMJ pain and my jaw surgeon has put me on a soft, no chew diet. I pretty much live on oatmeal, smoothies, applesauce, and potatoes and lots of Sobe Lifewater and V8 juice for fluids.

The exact cause of Hashimoto's Disease is unknown. But, scientists may have discovered some contributing factors such as:

Excessive Iodine
Radiation Exposure

One of the things I think contributed to my thyroid disfunction was the Lithium I was prescribed to treat my Bipolar. Lithium use hurts the thyroid. The National Institute of Health report supports this theory.

There is no cure for Hashimoto's Disease but there are treatment protocols. My doctor has prescribe medication to replace my thyroid hormones and regulate my metabolism. I must have quarterly blood tests to ensure the medication is working properly. It also lets the doctor know if my medication needs to be reduced or increased.

If you've looked at the list of symptoms and think you may be experiencing hypothyroidism, contact your doctor immediately. Your doctor will have your blood tested and evaluate the results. Left untreated hypothyroidism and Hashimoto's Disease can lead to an enlarged heart, heart failure, or fluid around the lungs or heart. It could lead to coma or death.

I intend to religiously take my medications and visit my doctor at prescribed times and get all blood work done when needed. 

Hashimoto's Disease is just another disorder added to the already overwhelming list of disorders and diseases that fill my life. It won't get me down. I will continue to write, blog, visit my grandchildren, take care of my house, pets, husband and enjoy life. 

I am a survivor.