Thyroid Excitement #1

So as some of you may recall, a few months ago my mother called up to say “Hey! Hypothyroidism! All the women in your family have it! Get that looked at.”

I got the blood test last week, which may or may not have been the comprehensive panel—I don’t understand all the gory details, but this one measured the level of TSH(?) or whatever the pituitary gland spits out demanding that the body make more thyroid hormones.

Anyway, it was borderline. Given the family history, my doctor shrugged and said “Well, if you’ve got symptoms, we could put you on meds. You’ve been borderline on and off for awhile. We check this every year…yeah, in 2009 you were borderline…2010 was fine…2011 was borderline…”

I explained that my feet were cold, I owned the largest handwarmer collection in North America, and I slept twelve hours a day. She was rather more concerned about whether my hair was falling out, (Iit isn’t. Got more oily, though.) but said “Sure, given the family history, we can put you on the lowest dose and see what happens.”

(And now I am torn between “Yay! Thank you for making it no big deal!” and “This was borderline FOUR YEARS AGO and no one ever mentioned that there were meds? Or even asked me about symptoms? And you’re a generally GREAT doctor! You saved my bacon when I was depressed! How the hell does anyone ever get this crap diagnosed?”)

So I’m now on Synthroid, 50 micrograms. (And again, great doctor, because she had a long thing about generics and how the doses are so damn fiddly with this that if I go on a generic, she needs to titrate it just to make sure the dose is consistent—apparently the FDA allows +/- 20 micrograms in a generic, and with something this small a dose, that’s most of the way to the next dose up. And pharmacies will switch your generics willy-nilly, so if I go on one, it has to be the SAME generic all along.)

So we’ll see what happens. My mother has been singing the praises of this stuff, because she suddenly can get out of bed in the morning without a struggle and weight loss became feasible instead of Sisyphean, so hopefully I will have similar luck.

Me, I figured after I spent all spring moving multiple tons of stone and mulch and gained eight pounds that weight loss was just never going to happen again, but god, I’d kill for more energy. Just in the last few years I’ve been getting more and more tired all the damn time, and while I figured that part of that was the fact that I put out two heavily illustrated books a year, plus sundry other projects, it would be nice not to need a two hour nap to recover from going out for coffee and a trip to the farmers market.  I tell myself “Yeah, but you’re really really productive” which is true, but still…imagine what I could accomplish if I could stay away for more than six hours at a go without feeling like I’ve been pounded with hammers! I used to be able to paint rooms on a whim! I wanted to make art even when I didn’t HAVE to! What would that be like?

I’ll keep y’all posted. I’m avoiding reading too much about this because you can scare yourself stupid reading medical crap on the internet, but it does seem that the thyroid more or less rules the body, so maybe I’ll be lucky. They say it takes a minimum of two weeks to notice any effect (more like six to eight for real help) and that you have to be madly consistent when you take it and not put it opposite calcium or vitamins, so I guess I get to wait half an hour for coffee in the morning…

NOTE: This is not the place to comment and tell me how modern medicine will kill me and this is poison and I need to be taking homeopathic bee penis supplements or how you switched to an all-raw-cucumber diet and everything was better. Because there is no world where I will do either of those things, so it would be a shame to waste the effort of typing all that out. I am also not equipped to diagnose anyone with anything and cannot offer medical advice, consult a professional, etc.

And also, if your cousin’s roommate’s uncle’s babysitter went on this stuff and THEN THEIR EYEBALLS EXPLODED AND THEY GAINED NINE HUNDRED POUNDS AND WERE EATEN BY THYROID BUTTERFLIES…err…okay, that might be a good story, but please, keep less fascinating horror stories to a minimum.

(As for why I do these—it’s because other people who are less prone to oversharing sometimes find themselves in these situations too and it’s less scary if you can go “Oh! That’s that thing that one blogger has! And she hasn’t been eaten by thyroid butterflies hardly at all!” Public service and all that. Also, dude, thyroid butterflies.)

  • reply Valerie Kaplan ,

    You should draw thyroid butterflies.

    • reply Sean Fagan ,

      My wife has to take liothyronine; her metabolism was kinda screwed up until then. It was very hard to diagnose, since her levels were borderline, but the pills have made a HUGE difference. And did so fairly quickly.

      So, a success story! Good, right?

      • reply Quin Firefrorefiddle ,

        … thank you for this post. I’ve been feeling achy and cold for months, tired and distracted, and, well, you don’t want to hear about the digestive stuff. But what you said struck a nerve, and I remembered my cousin’s thyroid issues, and that I forgot to get my blood work done at my last doctor’s appointment. I’m calling them tomorrow. I never thought I could have a thyroid issue, I have friends with hyper- but none with hypo-. Maybe I don’t have to feel like this. Thank you!

        • reply Anjela ,

          Ooo, I hope it’s helpful! I’m on the even lower 25 microgram dose of Synthroid right now (for fertility reasons, actually), and it’s caused my blood pressure to get a bit higher, so you might want to look out for that.

          Meanwhile, thanks for mentioning that about the generic version and the +/- 20 microgram allowance. Maybe that has something to do with the blood pressure weirdness…

          • reply ddpej ,

            Good luck! I’m borderline as well; my doctor has me on a generic for Synthroid and I haven’t noticed any particular problems, but with my lifestyle it would be hard to pinpoint anything specifically related to that anyway. My body temperature has been screwy since I was about four and I earn my living via exhausting (but satisfying!) manual labor, so those potential symptoms vanish into the everyday. The big symptom I had before I was put on meds was actually terrible short-term memory, which cleared up almost completely almost immediately.

            • reply Louna ,

              Hey, you know that depression can also be a symptom of hypothyroidism, right? So it could also help with that. Which reminds me that I should check my levels also, because excessive sleep and tiredness, check, weight gain, check, depression, check, low blood pressure, check…

              • reply Douglas Henke ,

                Fascinating horror stories, eh?

                As a child, I had a bobwhite quail as a pet. He was diagnosed — and I swear I’m not making this up — as hypothyroid. (Ponder for a moment the fun of lab tests for a bird where taking 1ml of blood would be life-threatening.)

                I don’t remember the dosage, but it was the lowest pediatric dose of synthroid. Tiny little tablets, and we had to break them into eigths. All attempts at concealing or mixing the medicine in food having failed, we got to cram the pill fragments daily down the maw of a furious, struggling six-ounce patient.

                • reply BrassyDel ,

                  Oh, good luck!

                  I’ve been on thyroid meds for years and they really, really help. Except my doses were keeping more at the borderline level and when I got a new doc and we upped my meds again, I could feel it! In a good way.

                  Unfortunately, I have Hashimoto’s so it’s also exacerbated by gluten and coffee (SOB), but that’s the autoimmune version. If you’re ever curious about that, it’s just another blood test. They test you for auto-antibodies to your own thyroid tissue. The only difference for me was that I tried gluten-free and no coffee and my energy jumped back and my lab tests perked up.

                  There are plenty of non-autoimmune ways to be hypothyroid though! So don’t worry about that unless you wind up still not seeing results, then it might be nice to just get the blood test. I think I paid $5 after insurance for it, since they do a co-insurance thing for labwork. I pay $4 just for the routine TSH tests.

                  Anyway, keep us posted! I hope the meds help, and I hadn’t heard that issue about the generic forms so that was really helpful.

                  • reply tea ,

                    Oh, hey. I just started on a similar drug regimen. I had a doctor say to me once, years ago, “You know, I don’t think you have a thyroid!” and then kind of fail to follow up with me (HMO, yes). And now my specialist is glaring at me and asking why I never got X, Y, and Z checked. You *will* get the energy back. I’ve lost about eight pounds without working out more than just mild walking – nothing focused or very deliberate – so fingers crossed and all – it will happen for you.

                    • reply Erin ,

                      I have autoimmune hypothyroid, I’ve been taking synthroid or levoxyl since I was diagnosed (in 1995, when I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes), and never had any problems with it. Of course I didn’t really have any symptoms that I would have been able to recognize before I was diagnosed, because the diabetes did all kind of weird things to me in the beginning. They’ve increased my dosage a bit over the years, based on my TSH levels, which they check whenever I go for an A1C, and that’s all I’ve had to do to manage it.

                      So you’ll be fine, and odds are good that this will help you be less tired, and lose weight. 🙂

                      • reply Escher ,

                        >EATEN BY THYROID BUTTERFLIES

                        Welcome…
                        to Night Vale.

                        • reply GILBERT ,

                          Also, since there are differences obviously from the anime and the LN, and also the fact that they are different mediums, and the fact that animation is different than mere words, that they cannot be compared.

                          • reply Primarch359 ,

                            I was given a test for TSH and it was way off the norm and im not on a dose of levothryoxin at 112mg. I have not noticed any bad effects. If that will ease your mind.

                            • reply Jen ,

                              I was diagnosed hypothyroid 8 years ago, and it has been so amazing to have a metabolism! I haven’t seen a single butterfly though 🙁

                              • reply erebor452 ,

                                I’ve been on levoxyl, 100 mcg, mostly on but sometimes off, for ten or so years now. Other than making me have to pee approximately twice as often whenever I re-start, I’ve not had any bad effects. And even that goes away after about a week and a half.

                                I hope it helps!

                                • reply Citizen of a Town ,

                                  As a Liverpool fan.. I’ve got to say this is shameful and horrible.. Especially in the midst of all the positivity that’s come from the fans that we’ve seen on tour.. 95,000 people singing You’ll Never Walk Alone’ in Melbourne etc.

                                  • reply Pam ,

                                    I’ve been on 75mg for almost ten years now. You will feel so much better once the meds kick in!

                                    • reply Beguine ,

                                      So thyroid stimulating hormone is usually the first thing that’s screened since it’s more reliable for thyroid dysfunction than the actual levels themselves. Still, a borderline low level is hard to know what to do with. If the person isn’t having any symptoms and, like your level, it seems to sort of hover around either side of the border, then it might just be you’re on the low end of the bellcurve. If you have symptoms (fatigue is the least objective and hardest to interpret, also, weight gain, constipation, cold intolerance, dry skin) or there level is drifting gently downwards, then you treat, but it’s not always easy to balance avoiding giving people medicine they don’t really need and failing to treat people that have only mild disease.

                                      • reply fairyhedgehog ,

                                        It feels like this is the place to say: “Go you!”

                                        I know that thyroid supplements can make a world of difference and being borderline sounds like it’s really not optimal for you. (Because what’s technically enough and what’s really enough aren’t always the same thing.)

                                        I hope you start to notice the difference really quickly. I had CFS for four years or so and I know how debilitating chronic fatigue can be, so I’m really rooting for you here.

                                        • reply Helen ,

                                          I have Hashimoto’s (aka autoimmune hypothyroidism), and I can’t tell how heartening it is to know one of my favourite author/artists is dealing with similar nonsense! Ahem. Misery loves company? I’ve just started low-dose Synthroid, no thyroid butterflies so far, although well-meaning people on my Facebook have, in fact, been posting Synthroid-is-poison-consume-bee-penii-instead infographics, duly sourced and researched.*

                                          *not actually

                                          • reply Tom West ,

                                            Allowing ±20 micrograms for a 50 microgram dose seems rather… lax. If it was 200±20, sure. But 40% error margin?!?!?!

                                            Seriously, the FDA should say ±10%.

                                            • reply Shannon ,

                                              Yes! I have PCOS, so I’m on thyroid meds and birth control. It takes a month or two to get working, but once it does life’s pretty awesome. I used to be so tired all day everyday, now I feel like I can actually do stuff…

                                              • reply Channy ,

                                                If it makes you feel any better I have hyperthyroidism and the fun thing is if you can’t bring the thyroid back to normal with meds in 1 year they kill the thyroid with radiation or cut it out by surgery and then you essentially have hypothyroidism 🙂 and on those meds for the rest of your life. So at least you don’t have to cope with the bucket of suck. Hope it kicks in soon and everything settles down.

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