When I was growing up I remember lots of adults offering commentary on my weight. I was usually the bigger one among my peers so I had grown accustomed to unsolicited advice. I distinctly remember someone once asking my mom if I had a thyroid issue. Over the years I would have a few doctors casually mention it to me; they’d even feel my neck but nothing ever came of any additional testing.
For a good while I used to think that thyroid disease was just something bigger people used to claim in order to justify being their size. Determined to never blame any illness made up or otherwise for my weight, I didn’t give it much thought. That was until a goiter started growing in my neck.
These last 4 months have been a whirlwind of doctor’s appointments, specialist visits, ultrasounds and up next a biopsy. 4 months and I don’t feel any closer to a treatment plan then I did when I discovered that I swallow funny and my chest gets tight. I’ve spent a lot of time reading the information the specialists provided to me and I’ve got to admit that there is only a slight satisfaction in knowing where the vast majority of my ailments originate.
So I’ve decided to share with those who may not know or feel inclined to try and offer their advice but have no real understanding of what’s going on.
What is Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis?
In short, Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease in which your body produces antibodies that attack the thyroid which is a gland that sits at the base of your neck and is a vital part of your endocrine system. The thyroid is responsible for producing hormones that regulate your metabolism, digestion in the stomach and weight gain/loss. The thyroid is also connected to other hormonal functions including menstruation.
What are symptoms of Hashimoto’s?
Symptoms can vary from person to person; but I will share what I’ve personally experienced:
- Goiter growth
- Hypothyroidism (under active thyroid where the gland does not produce enough hormone to turn food into energy)
- Difficulty swallowing
- Weight gain
- Dry skin
- Hair loss
- Joint pain
- Extreme fatigue
- Depression (though I’ve had depression for a long while I wonder now if this is a root cause)
- Amenorrhea aka absence of menstruation
What causes Hashimoto’s?
Thyroid issues are quite common in countries where lack of iodine is present. This tends not to be a problem in the U.S because iodine has been added into our food (salt). So the thought is that it is genetically passed along. Meaning if you have Hashimoto’s it’s a strong possibility someone in your family has had it too. I recently learned that two family members on my paternal side have had issues with their thyroid; and my uncle on my maternal side had thyroid issues which is common for people with Down’s Syndrome (Trisomy 21) which he had.
The gene can lay latent for awhile before something environmental triggers it. Being that there’s no way to know just how long I’ve had it; so far specialists guess that any one of my pregnancies could have kicked it into high gear. My personal opinion is that this last pregnancy is what really did it.
What is the treatment for Hashimoto’s?
Some people will never really require treatment so long as the hormones T3 & T4 are at a good level in their blood work. Some people will need hormone replacements. Others may need a partial or full thyroidectomy (removal of the thyroid) if the goiter is causing difficulty or has cancerous nodules. In the event that cancer is present; some form of radiation would be included. As of right now they only thing I know is that I am a candidate for thyroidectomy due to how it’s growing in my neck. It’s pressing against my trachea and it’s making swallowing uncomfortable. I’ve yet to have my biopsy done so until then; verdict is out on any additional treatment.
When you try to explain to people just how awful you feel; it’s often met with ignorance. Many people feel much like I used to; that it’s just an “excuse for one’s weight”, or that if I just diet and exercise I can lose the weight. It just isn’t that simple. My body doesn’t create energy, no energy leads to exhaustion. Not to mention my metabolism is practically nonexistent so eating is going to be very tricky.
Most of all, I don’t want to be bombarded with weight loss tips etc because it just doesn’t work that way for my body. I find comfort in support groups for people with thyroid disease because they truly understand the chronic pain and all the other miseries that come with this.
I know many don’t truly understand, so it is my hope that by reading this; you walk away with the proper knowledge and a slightly better understanding of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.
*for more information please visit: www.EndocrineWeb.com