The thyroid is a gland I'd never really heard much about until a few years ago. In fact, a few short years ago, I probably couldn't have told you what it does, where it is or why we all have one.
Of course, now I'm more than a little familiar with what this small, butterfly shaped gland can do and what it can be like to have one that's out of whack.
It all started during the early Fall of 2011. I was gearing up for my final semester of college at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (Go Big Red!), and my sister, who was living with me at the time, was getting ready for another big season on the Husker Volleyball Team. She'd started pre-season workouts like she did the three years before, but this year was a bit different. Her heart was racing, and she couldn't get it to calm down. Strength coaches kept her out of high-octane exercises, and Athletic Trainers kept a watchful eye on her heart rate. They couldn't quite figure out why this highly-trained athlete was suddenly unable to complete a workout, and her racing heartrate did little more than terrify us all.
All it took was a simple blood test to show something was horribly wrong with her thyroid. A follow-up ultrasound and biopsy quickly confirmed what we'd all suspected and dreaded: a mass on her thyroid was causing it to send signals to her brain to send erratic levels of thyroid hormone (TSH) into her body.
Luckily for my sister, it was not cancerous, and after a fairly easy thyroidectomy (that's where they take the whole gland out-- It sounds scary, but my sister says the surgery was easy; it was the months following that were the most difficult) was followed up by months and months of changes in medicine to finally make her body think she still had a thyroid.
During that time, doctors urged my family to make sure we were all checked to make sure our thyroids were in working order. Thyroid disorders are often highly genetic, so screening for the whole family was a necessity. Everyone else checked out well, except for me, that is.
Hashimoto's Thyroiditis is an autoimmune condition where your body sees your thyroid as a foreign body and your immune system essentially attacks it. This might not seem like a big deal, but your thyroid is actually a powerful little gland. It's in charge of coordinating a lot of your body's functions like your metabolic rate, how quickly your cells make energy, regulating body temperature, making proteins and increasing the use of the body's fat and glucose cells. Essentially, your thyroid is a powerful little gland.
I've always been a fairly anxious person, but during the Fall of 2011, my anxiety and racing heart were starting to become a problem. Walking into a full classroom was enough to make me feel faint. Plus, I was retaining water, so I felt like a water balloon ready to pop despite watching my diet, drinking plenty of water and exercising nearly daily. My skin was also dry, and I was cold all the time, even in August. I was so relieved to have finally found an answer.
That answer turned into the daily vigilence my sister and I now practice. We take our thyroid medications every single morning (and at noon), and for those first few months, although we were both borderline unbearable while we got our medications right (did I mention thyroid hormones can greatly impact your mood, namely irritability?), it's nice to say we are both on the right track, and we're both very active in thyroid health advocacy.
Symptoms of Hashimoto's Thyroiditis:
- Fatigue and sluggishness
- Increased sensitivity to cold
- Pale, dry skin
- A puffy face
- Hoarse voice
- Unexplained weight gain — occurring infrequently and rarely exceeding 10 to 20 pounds, most of which is fluid
- Muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness, especially in your shoulders and hips
- Pain and stiffness in your joints and swelling in your knees or the small joints in your hands and feet
- Muscle weakness, especially in your lower extremities
- Excessive or prolonged menstrual bleeding
Because of the sudden and serious nature of some of the side effects of thyroid hormone replacement therapy, for people with hypothyroidism, medical IDs are a real necessity. They help make first responders aware of one’s condition(s), medications, and any additional or complicating factors.
What should I engrave on my medical ID jewelry?
Because hormone therapies can change with time, it's a good idea to list the therapy on your medical ID bracelet and carry a wallet card with the current specifics. You can download a FREE wallet card here. Here are a few suggestions for engraving your hypothyroidism medical alert jewelry:
ON HORMONE THERAPY
SEE WALLET CARD
ALGYS: LATEX, SULFA
SEE WALLET CARD
Do you wear a medical ID for Hashimoto's Disease or Hypothyroid? Let us know!