Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Thyroid: Get It Checked, Ladies!
It occurred to me that my main focus has been on Lyme Disease as a whole (including all of those lovely co-infections). I've tried to keep posts non-specific, as not to exclude anyone. Plus, I'm only super familiar with the co-infections I have, and I try to only report on areas in which I am confident.
That said, there are a whole lot of other specific things that can go awry when you have Lyme. Today, I'm most interested in the thyroid.
As you probably know, many patients end up with hypothyroidism as a result of years of undiagnosed Lyme. I found out the hard way that pregnancy can affect the thyroid even more, regardless of whether you're on medication.
When I visited a high risk OBGYN a couple of months ago, he asked me what my new thyroid tests showed. I just shrugged and said, "What new tests?"
I've been on the same dose of thyroid medication for two years, and it hasn't failed me yet. In fact, I'm surprised at the difference it has made in my overall level of function. I'm not going to lie--I've only been tested once since then, and it was over a year ago.
He told me that he's seen startling changes in pregnant patients with thyroid issues. Some had levels that dropped to well below normal; others increased naturally from the pregnancy, and the added medication actually made their levels way too high. Another one of the crazy hormonal joys we experience.
Levels have to be checked at least a couple of times during the pregnancy, because they fluctuate so easily, and too much or too little medication can harm you and have negative effects on your baby. It's a simple blood test that can be done at the same time as when you have your routine bloodwork done at your OBGYN.
I made the mistake of shrugging the high risk doctor off, because frankly, I didn't like him due to his Lyme ignorance. Then the doctors I respect recently told me the same thing, so I got tested immediately. (Ooops.) In retrospect, I should have had my thyroid checked during the first and third trimesters, just to be safe.
According to the various thyroid sites I Googled, normal levels should fall between .3 and 3.3. A few other sites say it's .5 to 5.5. My doctor goes by the .3 scale. (Don't be afraid to ask for your specific numbers or have doctors explain your results. It's their job.)
I got my test results back yesterday, and I've gone from mid-range on the scale (with medication) to a .3, which is the lowest mark considered "normal."
That said, it really does help to get tested, ladies. You don't want to mess around with thyroid issues, and the medications are safe (and very much needed) during pregnancy.
Just don't forget to get re-tested again after the baby is born, as your levels might change again.
Here are some signs that your thyroid might be a little sluggish:
* Weight gain
* Coarse, dry hair
* Dry, rough pale skin
* Hair loss
* Cold intolerance
* Muscle cramps and frequent muscle aches
* Memory loss
* Decreased libido
(Yeah, I know, all of these are the same as Lyme...)
Here are some signs that your thyroid is a little too busy (or your dose is too high):
* Heat intolerance
* Increased bowel movements
* Fast heart rate
* Trembling hands
* Weight loss
* Muscle weakness
* Warm moist skin
* Hair loss
* Staring gaze
Again, all can be attributed to Lyme as well, but talk to your doctor anyway if you experience any of these symptoms.