Friday, July 11, 2014

Hypothyroidism and Me


Diagnosed at 72 years old, I inherited hypothyroidism from my mother. Diagnosed late in life, like me, she experienced the same symptoms. Since my diagnosis, I have learned much about the disease and in the process learned much more about me.


Diagnosed at 72 years old, I inherited hypothyroidism from my mother. Diagnosed late in life, like me, she experienced the same symptoms. Since my diagnosis, I have learned much about the disease and in the process learned much more about me.

Hypothyroidism is an insidious, chronic condition caused by thyroid underproduction of hormones that regulate metabolism. The disease can be subtle and hard to identify. Symptoms can resemble other diseases and conditions. As I got older, I dismissed many of my symptoms as only signs of aging. However, it’s sometimes hard to know the difference.

But with the benefit of hindsight, I now believe an underactive thyroid was responsible for how I felt -- and behaved -- over the years.

I have always lacked a degree of alertness, laid-back and slow to react. On one of my managerial appraisals, one criticism of my performance by my district manager (DM) was that I didn’t always know what was going on around me. On another evaluation, a DM wrote that I was good in political situations. And on another, a DM remarked that I responded well in emergencies, writing, the building could be falling down around me and I remain calm, cool, and collected. So, I guess in the case of the last two appraisals, my hypothyroidism served me well -- at least in the way it was perceived.

Later in life, how I felt and behaved should have indicated that mentally and physically things had gone a little haywire. Like most men, I am not in touch with my body and do not pay much attention to my health.

I know now, hypothyroidism is most likely the reason why I have struggled to control weight, why my memory is vague at best (I refrain from conversations because I think slowly, preferring to listen instead), and why I have problems with an ability to concentrate.

And I know why I have developed intolerance to cold environments. Cold affects my fingers and toes. In cold weather, my fingers become cracked and painful.

And I now recognize why I have experienced other common hypothyroid symptoms:
·    dry throat and hoarse speech
·    bouts of extreme constipation
·    bouts of mild depression
·    progressively lost scalp hair
·    puffiness under my eyes (now I know it may be due to more than just allergies)
·    lost my desire to have sex
·    aches around my neck and shoulders
·    leg cramps
·    felt faint, unsteady, and lightheaded

And recently I have suffered head lacerations and bruised ribs from falling and bumping into things.

Prior to retirement, I always had an annual physical but it covered only the basics. After retirement, I had my first thorough physical examination since an Army physical a long time ago. A blood test indicated that my thyroid hormone levels were insufficient. My doctor prescribed levothyroxine, which is a synthetic hormone replacement.

Levothyroxine’s prescribed usage is to take one a day 4 hours after breakfast. I found that 4 hours was too long to wait before eating. Instead, I take the pill around 1:00 in the morning. The change has worked well for me.

I have since been able to lose about 50 lbs. I do feel better, many symptoms persist but with less frequency and severity. Actually, since I have lost weight, I may need to have my levothyroxine dosage adjusted -- I would not want now to become hyperthyroid, which shares many of the same symptoms as being hypothyroid.

If nothing else, my hope is that in reading this, it will motivate some men to pay attention to how they feel and their health. A thorough physical exam is important. If anyone experiences any of these symptoms, do not ignore them. Left untreated, hypothyroidism can become life threatening. Instead, report symptoms to your doctor, have a blood test to determine if your thyroid is performing as it should, and if needed receive treatment.

Copyright © 2014 Horatio Green




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