How Can Thyroid Disease Disguise Itself?

Thyroid disease affects literally every cell and process in your body. Because of this, there are many different symptoms it can manifest. So many things it can cause that can be misleading your doctor into diagnosing something else, missing the root cause of the thyroid itself being the problem.  Let’s look at some of the common things people are diagnosed with before the doctor thinks to check the thyroid.

  • Depression. Low thyroid levels can cause your body to become fatigued, fuzzy brained and lethargic. Also can make you gain weight, and lose your energy and focus and feel sad all the time. It can also cause your body to slow down so much depression is inevitable. So a doctor sees things like fatigue, excessive crying or sadness, fuzzy thinking (brain fog), weight gain, they first think depression. Put  you on anti-depressants and they think you are done. For a lot of people they are depressed with those symptoms, but they also can have an underactive thyroid, and that should always be checked when signs of depression hit.
  • Anxiety. Higher thyroid levels can elevate anxiety. It can speed up the heart rate, make you prone to panic attacks and other symptoms that look like anxiety. As with depression, if these are all the symptoms you present with, a doctor may look no further and send you on your way with anti-anxiety meds. Again thyroid should always be checked to make sure the underlying cause isn’t thyroid levels.
  • Insomnia. Both higher thyroid levels and low thyroid levels can cause sleep cycles to be off. If this is occurring for longer than a couple of weeks, and there seems to be no real explanation,  get your thyroid checked.
  • Muscle and joint pain. If your thyroid levels are off, they throw off everything else. So the vitamins and nutrients your muscles need to function may be low because it’s compensating for your thyroid being off as well. If your muscle and joint pain is ongoing and doesn’t seem to be the result of an injury or excessive exercise, it could be your thyroid levels.
  • Changes in hair and skin. Sometimes people find they have major hair loss, or skin is flaking and drying out. These can be stress, but it’s also a big sign that your thyroid levels could be causing problems.

These are only a few of the more common things that doctors misdiagnose that is really thyroid disease. If you have any of the above, or other issues, that don’t seem to be responding to treatment, get your doctor to run a full thyroid panel to make sure it is not an underlying cause and trying to disguise itself as something else. TSH, free T3 and Free T4 as a minimum!

Comment below what else you have been diagnosed with before they found out about your thyroid issues.

You can follow Britney on twitter @BttrflyBritney or @warriorbtrflies, or on the Warrior Butterflies website


Stronger together

One really positive thing about being on the internet and having thyroid disease is being able to compare and contrast your experience with other people. There are so many support groups out there with literally thousands of people sharing their experiences. There is also blogs, articles and information all over the place. While some of this information doesn’t apply to everyone, what it does do, is allow a person to start to see patterns.

When you start talking to other people from other places, you can see whether or not a particular issue that you are dealing with is common with other people. You can help yourself figure out if that crazy thought you are having is something you alone are thinking or if fifty others are also having crazy thoughts. You can find out options that other people have tried. You can find out the good, the bad and the ugly of treatment options out there.

You still have to put on  your critical thinking hats to deal with the information, like you do with anything on the internet. Don’t let yourself fall for lose weight quick, or those “heal your thyroid” miracle sounding cures on the internet. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. A little skepticism is a good thing. Mind you, do not close your mind off to everything, but make sure anything you hear you confirm with multiple reputable sources before you try anything you have read about. While there is a lot of good information out there, there is also people waiting to prey on those of us with chronic illness, and we can find things that will actively hurt us in the guise of helping.

If you are open to it, start doing your own research on your thyroid condition. Talk to people online. Join a thyroid support group and start reading what other people are experiencing. This is something that has helped me immensely over the last few years. I have been in several thyroid support groups over the years, and I started seeing recurring topics show up. Topics that you never see in articles online or hear about from your doctor. This enabled me to do some more research and find things that doctors do not seem to be aware of. The reason, for this I feel, is that  doctors know about what they have learned in medical school, they may see a dozen or so thyroid patients in their lifetime or a few more, so patterns of other things do not show up in those situations. If you are online with a thyroid support group, depending on the size you get a much larger sample of people coming together. People will also talk about their entire lives on support groups, not just things they think of as thyroid related issues. When you hear about people talking about obsessive thoughts for instance, or problems with their menstrual cycles and those people number in the hundreds, you start to think just maybe there is a connection. Maybe people with thyroid issues deal with much more than the medical profession knows about, and maybe the thyroid causes much more than just the issues that are mentioned commonly.

Some of the common topics I hear about on thyroid support boards including the following:

  1. Obsessive thoughts. A lot of people are finding they are struggling with obsessive thoughts, either dark and negative or just ultra focused on some strange thing in their lives. OCD behaviors also start hitting people, especially people who are hypothyroid.
  2. Anxiety in general. Having a chronic health issues like thyroid disease makes people feel more vulnerable and worry more about how to deal with things in their lives.
  3. For women, menstrual cycle issues. So many woman have reported extra long and heavy periods, or no periods at all, or spotty periods. More PMS symptoms and more issues with fatigue than normal around their menstrual cycle.
  4. For men, loss of sex drive and fatigue and stamina issues. Many men on the thyroid boards report they feel like they are much older  than they actually area. Some of them are finding they are having low T issues as well.
  5. Sudden sensitivities to foods. A lot of people seem to be finding that since their thyroid diagnosis they cannot tolerate certain foods. They have new food allergies, or foods they ate for years suddenly give them gastric distress or make them feel ill when they eat them.
  6.  General lack of energy. Even when thyroid levels are more normalized with medications, people report that they just don’t have the same energy they did before thyroid disorder. Doctors will tell them that their thyroid levels are normal so deal with it. When they get further testing on vitamins and minerals they find that they are…
  7. Low on necessary vitamins and minerals.I blogged about low Vitamin D recently, and that’s one of the big ones that people become deficient after developing thyroid disorder. People who get their vitamins and minerals tested also have reported low calcium, magnesium and other issues. Being low in nutrients can make a person not feel at their best. If you look at all the stories from people online there seems to be a connection between thyroid issues and other deficiencies in the body.
  8. Catching every virus that comes around. A lot of people report more illness in general since their thyroid diagnosis. People who never or rarely got sick will catch every cold and bug that goes around. When they do get ill, they can’t seem to get over it as fast. Something that they might have gotten over in a few days will drag on to a week or two sometimes. I frequently see this topic going around, especially in the fall and winter months.
  9. Feelings of isolation. Having thyroid disease can be very isolating for people. A lot of people can mentally deal with the idea of an illness you have and then get over. Thyroid disease does not go away. It stays with you forever, and can affect you at any time. Sometimes people with thyroid disease will lose friends and family who just cannot deal with their constant health issues. So a person is abandoned at a time they need support the most.
  10. Finding a thyroid support group online can help. Finding the right support group online is generally reported as a positive thing by most thyroid patients. There are many out there with different objectives and personalities, so just about anyone can find one that is helpful. People report when they can share their experiences online with others, they don’t feel so alone. They can talk about feelings that have bothered them and have them validated by others who have been there. They don’t have to feel like that are a freak or a crazy person, and they can find more possible solutions than any one doctor will ever be able to tell them about. The more people who band together, the more information and support will be available for all.

What I have found is that people working together can produce remarkable results. Share your thyroid experiences with others, so they also feel empowered. Share your information you learn so people can go to their doctors more educated and confident. The more of us who work together, the better things will be for all thyroid patients. Together we are stronger!

See Britney at or come join her at her Thyroid Tribe closed FaceBook group.

How to help a chronically ill person

For those of us with thyroid disease and other chronic illnesses it can be a challenge to deal with others socially. Our emotions are constantly being manipulated by our thyroid hormones, and  we can be suffering from chronic fatigue and exhaustion. Our friends sometimes will start to dwindle because what we have just doesn’t go away and goes on and on. Some days are good ones and some are bad, and sometimes we have entire weeks or months that we have to rest. Sometimes plans made out in advance have to be canceled last minute due to our health deciding that day to take a nose dive.

Those who are the loved ones of a thyroid patient or other chronic illness, it can be difficult for them as well. They will want to help, but there is a fine line between helping a person and making them feel like they can’t do anything for themselves. Depending on what current health issues are hindering a person, different things can be done to help that will not offend a person having the illness. We still want to be seen as useful, productive members of society, even if we cannot do everything we used to all of the time. Sometimes people will try to do everything for us instead of let us try to do things at our own pace and it can hurt our feelings and our pride.

Instead here are some things you can do.

1. Find out if they want company. A lot of us end up being isolated because our constant state of being unwell or less than optimal can drive people away, and the mood swings that go along with thyroid disease can make it difficult to keep people around. If someone offers to just come by even for a few minutes or an hour and just hang out and talk, it will mean the world to someone.

2. If someone has been down a lot recently, find out if they are needing someone to help them go shopping. Maybe they would love to have someone take their list and take them to the store, so they can save their energy for picking out their foods. Maybe it would help to get a list and then pick up a few things from the store, so they can save their energy for other things.

3. Offer to come by and cook them dinner for themselves or for their family, giving them the chance to relax and rest and get away from stress for a short time. Or offer to bring them some tasty carryout to help them out with meals.

4. Just be willing to let them talk and listen to them without judging. When you don’t feel well often, it takes a toll on your ability to be social and it also can hurt your self esteem when people do not come around as often.

5. Ask them if there is any chore, no matter how small you can help with to help them out. If so, ask how they want help with it, and try to do it their way the best that you can.

6. Do NOT try to take over and do something for them without asking.Do not accuse them of being lazy, or unmotivated if their house isn’t in tip top shape or their laundry isn’t all done. Chronic illness takes a lot out of most of us. Some of us only get a few hours or days at most when we feel better to do things, and other people can add to that burden of guilt we already feel.

7. Do NOT act like the person is stupid or try to over exaggerate what you ask, we are not stupid, we are sick. Do NOT try to avoid touching us either.  Most of us who have chronic conditions are also not contagious in any way,and a lot of us are starved for hugs (though please ask before hugging, sometimes people are fragile and hugs can hurt if they are in pain that day).

Communication can go a long way to helping out your friend or loved one with a thyroid disease. Try to have open conversations about what they are going through and their personal challenges. Do not be afraid to ask what you can do to help, or how can you talk about things to make them better for the both of you. We have a lot to offer other people in return and you won’t be sorry.

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