The more and more I get to know people within the IBD community the more I find that Ulcerative Colitis and Crohns isn’t their only autoimmune disease – just like me! So I thought I would get even more personal with you all and let you in on two of my other ‘diseases’, but first – an explanation on exactly what is an autoimmune disease.
“Autoimmune disease: An illness that occurs when the body tissues are attacked by its own immune system. The immune system is a complex organization within the body that is designed normally to “seek and destroy” invaders of the body, including infectious agents…” – Source: Medicine Net
To cut the jargon, this means:
So as well as having Ulcerative Colitis, I also have two other autoimmune diseases. Today I am talking Part One – Underactive Thyroid (Hypothyroidism), so you will just have to wait until next week to find out what else is wrong with me! 😉
Underactive Thyroid (Hypothyroidism)
An underactive thryoid is when your thyroid gland doesn’t product enough hormones – specifically triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) which can change the way the body processes fat, which in turn can cause high cholesterol and other heart-related problems. Source: NHS
Below is an image of where the thyroid gland sits, it is outlined in black, doctors often refer to it as a butterfly shape.
The Thyroid gland produces hormones that regulate the body’s metabolic rate as well as heart and digestive function, muscle control, brain development and bone maintenance. Its correct functioning depends on having a good supply of iodine for the diet. The release of thyroid hormones from the thyroid gland is controlled by Thyrotrophin releasing hormone from the hypothalamus in the brain and by thyroid stimulating hormone produced by the pituitary gland.
The pituitary gland is about the size of a pea and is situated in a bony hollow, just behind the bridge of your nose. It is attached to the base of your brain by a thin stalk. The hypothalamus, which controls the pituitary by sending messages, is situated immediately above the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland is often called the master gland because it controls several other hormone glands in your body, including the thyroid and adrenals, the ovaries and testicles. Source: NHS and Pituitary Foundation
Common symptoms include:
- being sensitive to cold
- dry and scaly skin
- brittle hair and nails
Click here for the full list of symptoms.
So, it is a lot scarier than it sounds, believe me, the symptoms above are the ones I suffered from.
I was diagnosed when I was about 16, I had just started my A-levels and I was constantly exhausted. I would come home from school sleep until dinner time, eat dinner and then go back to bed. So I dragged myself to the doctors thinking I probably had low iron levels, so they took a simple quick blood test and sure enough a week later I was diagnosed with an Underactive Thryoid.
Ever since then I have been on the medicine Levothyroxine – which replaces the missing thryoid gland. You take the tablet every single morning, for the rest of your life. I started off on a low dose 10mcg, which has gradually crept up to 100mcg, but I assure you this is normal. As the years go by my thyroid gland will stop working at about a 1-5% rate, eventually my body will have burnt it out completely. The medicine can take a few weeks to kick in, so it is important to continually take it every day, I can really feel it when I forget to take my tablet for even just a few days. As this is a medication that is for life, and has to be taken every day I am entitled to a Medical Exemption Certificate (this is like gold, believe me), check the website to see if you can apply for one.
It is important to have regular blood tests for the first few months after diagnosis so that the doctors can make sure the dosage is correct. When everything has settled down it becomes a yearly test and with my IBD this is getting checked all of the time, so they can closely monitor this too.
So I have had an Underactive Thryoid for nearly 10 years now, and I am doing so much better with the help of the medication. Although I think I will forever have thinning and brittle hair sadly :(.
Do any of you suffer with thyroid related problems or other autoimmune disease?