When I was first diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease, I was consumed with worry about my health, especially since I was only 30 years old and had just given birth to my second daughter three months prior. I obviously hadn’t felt top-notch post-partum, but after several weeks of experiencing severe fatigue, forgetfulness and depression, I finally made the time to visit my family physician.
The first visit we talked a lot about post-partum depression and medication that may help me. After all, depression ran in my family and I had just previously given birth. It actually made a lot of sense. It wasn’t until my second doctor visit two weeks later that my physician ordered some blood work . I had never had a thyroid problem before, or at least was unaware of one. Actually, I had had my thyroid tested at a few different points in my life because both my brother and father have hypothyroidism. I believe it’s also a standard blood test for newly pregnant moms, something I would have had checked at least twice, having had two children. When the nurse called to tell me my blood test results, I was extremely surprised to find out that I had Hashimoto’s disease. I wasn’t even sure what it was!
According to womenhealth.gov, Hashimoto’s disease, also called chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks and destroys the thyroid gland, ultimately causing hypothyroidism. The thyroid gland produces two hormones, triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). Thyroid hormones affect literally every tissue and cell in the body, influencing metabolism, brain development, breathing, heart rate, nervous system functions, body temperature, muscle strength, menstrual cycles, skin moisture levels, weight, cholesterol and more, according to the National Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases Information Service.
The Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), made by the pituitary gland regulates the other thyroid hormones by increasing or decreasing hormones accordingly, if one may be too high or too low. The TSH blood test is usually the first to be performed to check the activity of the thyroid.
Symptoms of Hashimoto’s disease include fatigue, depression, weight gain, intolerance to cold, dry hair or skin, muscle weakness, constipation, irregular or heavy periods and/or a slowed heart rate. Not everyone with Hashimoto’s disease develops hypothyroidism. Others may experience one or more of the previous symptoms.
I was actually almost relieved to find out I had something wrong with me. As terrible as that sounds, I was excited at the chance to feel better. When I figured out what Hashimoto’s was and how it affects my body and mind, I realized this was something I can deal with. I have often envisioned myself as a true pessimist, but I have actually found positivity in my diagnosis. After all, it could be worse.
So now I take a daily dosage of a synthetic thyroid hormone, Synthroid. In the past three years, I have had my thyroid levels checked at least 8 or 9 times. After I was first diagnosed, it took a few months of varying doses of medication to get my thyroid hormones on track. Although my levels still seem to fluctuate, I continue to see my doctor every 6 months or so to be re-evaluated. Overall, since my diagnosis, I feel much better, but I often experience symptoms of fatigue, depression, intolerance to cold, dry skin and menorrhagia (heavy periods) and leg (muscle) pain, with medication. Some days are better than others.