Living with hypothyroidism can make each day a drag as it drains the body of energy and causes chronic fatigue, among other life-changing symptoms. This week at LetsGetChecked, we are joined by Stephanie O’ Quigley to discuss the symptoms of an underactive thyroid.
Stephanie has suffered from hypothyroidism for 11 years and for the majority of her time living with the condition, she told only her close friends and family about her battle. Stephanie now uses her platform in the hope of empowering others who are going through the same thing, and to provide advice to those who suffer from hypothyroidism.
- What Is Hypothyroidism?
- What Are The Symptoms Of Hypothyroidism?
- Living With Hypothyroidism
- Find Out More About Hypothyroidism with Dr. Dominic Rowley
What Is Hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism is a hormonal disorder.Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland is not producing a sufficient level of thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). T4 and T3 are responsible for regulating metabolism, breathing, hair growth and heart rate. For that reason hypothyroidism is also referred to as having an underactive thyroid. The most common cause of hypothyroidism is hashimoto's thyroiditis, an autoimmune disorder.
Women are 5-8 times more likely to suffer from hypothyroidism than men and 60% of those who suffer from a thyroid disorder are unaware of their condition. Hypothyroidism is more common than hyperthyroidism.
Hyperthyroidism is the opposite and symptoms present when the thyroid produces too many hormones. Due to the condition going largely un-diagnosed, the difference in prevalence of hypo and hyperthyroidism is unknown but unspecified thyroid problems are said to affect 200 million people worldwide.
What Are The Symptoms Of Hypothyroidism?
- Unusual weight gain and poor appetite
- Feeling cold when others are not or having a body temperature consistently below 37 °C (98.5 °F)
- Brain fog, poor concentration or memory
- Neck swelling, snoring or hoarse voice
- Muscle or joint pain, carpal tunnel syndrome or tendonitis.
- Worsened PMS, irregular periods, infertility and low sex drive.
- Mood disturbances such as mood swings, anxiety or depression.
- Hair loss
- Dry skin
- Hoarse voice or sore throat
- Poor hearing
Living With Hypothyroidism
When did you first begin to think that you suffered from hypothyroidism?
I remember I was on a school trip in Greece when I was fifteen years old. It was the first time I was away with all my friends and we were all sharing rooms together. Of course, we were staying up late and were extremely active during the day. I barely ate the food because it was all unfamiliar and not what I was used to. By the end of the trip, I was falling asleep throughout the day and had no voice left whatsoever. I thought it was the tiredness catching up on me so I came home and took some cough drops for my throat and went to sleep. I didn't wake up or eat for 72 hours. I went to school in the weeks following and would come home and fall asleep in my school uniform. My parents knew there was definitely something wrong and brought me to get everything checked. I found out the results that I had an underactive thyroid. It was hard to understand that I would have to take medication every day for the rest of my life.
What does it feel like?
Thankfully, even though I have had it for about 11 years, I feel pretty good now. I work long days and exercise a lot and for the most part, I'm able to keep up and bounce back from tiredness quicker than I did when I was a teenager. Having an underactive thyroid means your body will never function as well as everyone else's. It's just something I have to manage for the rest of my life.
What advice would you give to someone who is in a similar situation?
If you don't have thyroid issues, get checked regularly. If you do, get checked regularly as well. Managing your thyroid levels takes a lot of time and consistency but it's your wellbeing at stake and worth every minute of energy you need to achieve the best thyroid levels.
How do you manage your thyroid issues now?
I was transferred to a natural thyroid medication called Armour Thyroid and taking this in conjunction with Eltroxin has allowed me to maintain optimal thyroid levels. It wasn't until I combined the T3 and T4 hormones that all my hypothyroid symptoms began to dissolve. I worked hard on my fitness and diet over the past 5 years and can see the positive effect this has on me. I wouldn't give up exercise for the world, it makes me feel better more than anything else.
It's empowering...good health is truly empowering.
Do you think it's important to use your platform so people who suffer from an underactive thyroid can feel less alone?
One hundred percent! I have been blogging for 6 years and it's only in the last year or so that I have felt the value of bringing the truth to anyone who reads my blog. I have suffered from hypothyroidism for 11 years and only my close family and friends knew. Until you suffer from it yourself do you understand completely what it's like to have a hormonal imbalance and the effect of it. By putting myself out there and being vulnerable, I can do it with conviction knowing there are so many women out there who are going through the same stuff and can benefit from hearing my story. I want to create a conversation to let people know its not common. The struggle is definitely real but you are not alone by any means.
What are the best three things you can do to help yourself live with an underactive thyroid?
It sounds like a cliche, and probably the last thing anyone wants to hear, but exercise, sleep, and diet are all really important when it comes to feeling better with an underactive thyroid. By creating a good pattern of food, exercise and sleep your overall mental health improves along with increased energy and motivation; all of which are lacking when your thyroid is not being treated effectively. These are the things that are in your control so choose to make the right decision!
Find Out More About Hypothyroidism with Dr. Dominic Rowley
Read: Thyroid Problems: The Signs and Symptoms
Written by Hannah Kingston | Approved by Medical Director Dominic Rowley