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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.)

Originally published at Tea with the Squash God. You can comment here or there.

Synthroid is all that gets me out of bed in the morning.

And if you don't notice a difference, you might want to try the actual brand name vs the generic. Some people are sensitive enough to be able to tell the difference. :/

Nah, I sprung the twenty bucks extra for the real stuff.

Brave soul. Internets + medical issues = DRAMA.

I hope this helps you!

I've had hypothyroidism for the past 10 years, and I can seriously feel a difference if I go off of it for any reason. I had to go with the name brand myself because the fluctuations in my levels when I was on the generic was just way too much. I know a lot of people are on it, and it's been around for years and years, and have yet to hear any real horror stories. :)

If you're going to take bee penis, you should get the real stuff. At least that's what I always say.

Oh God. That was the point in the post at which my explosive "Ha!" scared our cat. And I agree, real stuff or not at all.

I've been taking Synthroid for years, and at first it really made a huge difference in weight and energy. Lately though my sleep is screwed up and I'm gaining weight, although the doc says my levels are fine. I think there's a more complex panel you can get from an endocrinologist, and that might be worth doing. But see how the Synthroid works for you--maybe you don't need that.

It sure won't hurt!

(I am not a doctor... But check ferritin levels (the fatigue of low ferritin feels a lot like hypothyroid fatigue) and sleep apnea (spouse has it; zombie spouse is bad; cpap machine = darth vader Lite, but non-zombie spouse, yay!)

Ferritin: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003490.htm -- get numbers, as "low normal" may still be worth treating according to that Nicely Reputable Link. (No bee penii at all!)

I had to get a decoy cup for my cat. Even that doesn't always work. She demands that I taste test the water before she drinks it, so she assumes any glass I drink from is her glass. Doesn't seem to care if ants get in it though.

Glad the doc knew enough to tell you about the differences in the generics, etc. Hope they mentioned that at the correct dosage, there are no side effects.

Bad that they didn't give you the instructions as it were. As follows. Take on an empty stomach, with no other meds, with no food, no sugar, no caffeine. Wait an hour before taking any of these.
I leave the pills on my night table with a sports bottle of water (cats!) and take them as soon as I wake up enough to reach for them. Sometimes earlier.
I own the second largest collection of handwarmers . . . give it time, the synthroid will make a difference. They should be tracking both the TSH (the hormone that pushes your thyroid to perform) and the free T4 (how much your thyroid is producing). Keep track of your T4 level vs. how you feel--there's a wide range of clinically okay, and you may feel better at one level than another.

Sorry I rambled--getting this diagnosed a couple years back solved a lot of stuff for me.

"As follows. Take on an empty stomach, with no other meds, with no food, no sugar, no caffeine. Wait an hour before taking any of these.
I leave the pills on my night table with a sports bottle of water "

that's how I take mine; they've made a world of difference; I tool it to my doctor reading something Sharon Lee (writer) wrote on her blog.

"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"

File this under "Things that MY doctor REALLY should have FRICKING told me at some point." I was on a relatively low dose too, and sometimes it seemed to work for months on end and then it suddenly DIDN'T work, and I'd be tired anyway, and then it would and augh seriously whut. I ended up losing my insurance and just giving up, because I can *live* with the tired all the time, and it seemed like the meds weren't really doing anything useful, since sometimes things got better and sometimes they got worse, more or less at random, but if I'd know that was a possibility early on maybe I wouldn't have had so much trouble and would have put in some effort to stay on the stuff.

At least the doc knows the meds. Generic hormones are bad, bad, bad. And if your insurance company is giving you grief,fight them.

When I was on hormonal birth control, I had to fight to be on name-brand stuff. Generic would make me crazy. But not always .... I finally figured out that it was because not all generics are the same,

I have many, many, many things to say about the way hypothyroidism is (or is not) diagnosed, some of which came up in this comment thread over here. Short version: you may want your TSH down to more like 1 than inside whatever they're currently calling "borderline". (Current Federal guidelines are I think 3ish, the lab at my doctor did like 4.5, and my doctor thinks most women do best between 1 and 1.5.)

Levoxyl was great for me, but see rant. The generic did jack shit. Synthroid helped with some of the fatigue and brain fog issues but left me relapsed on the joint pain. I am a few days into YET ANOTHER medication, which appears to be clearing up my joint pain again, which is nice. If your stuff doesn't improve - and it improved for me really fucking fast, but that's not a universal - it may not be "wrong treatment" but rather "this medication isn't right".

But you may have to kick ass routinely to keep this properly paid attention to, because the diagnostic standards are crap and it will get blown off by a lot of people. My doctor is magic and I want to clone him for everyone with thyroid problems, because he FUCKING LISTENS.

... you are aware that the thyroid gland is kind of butterfly-shaped, right?

I see that you have pointed out that batch of commentary and so I don't need to. :)

The other things I would add -- I assume your doctor mentioned this, but grapefruit and soy products can both have notable effects on thyroid-medication uptake, so it's a think to pay attention to. And that the effects of having thyroid stuff appropriately medicated are strong enough that the effects of whether (my wife) suzanne's medication is set right would probably be detectable by giving me a reasonably accurate depression panel.

May it be helpful for you as well!

“This was borderline FOUR YEARS AGO and no one ever mentioned that there were meds?

Can we talk about insurance companies and VA and such where you have a problem for years and finally go to an outside doctor who gives you something that clears it right up, so you go back to the VA and they say, "Sure, we can do that too (but it costs us money)"? After they spent years NOT tellilng you?

Hi, CatBrooks directed me here because I seriously about 30 minutes ago posted about the exact same stuff. I've been feeling not right this year, and with a prodigious family history have just come to the thyroid conclusion myself, will be ringing up a doctor tomorrow sometime.

If it is not to weird for a non-friend creeper to be asking, please report back to the virtual world on how the Synthroid works out for you? Because I'm much too susceptible to medical horror stories and am all sorts of wigged out at this whole chronic condition/lifetime of medication never-to-be-naturally-easily-myself-and-well-again prospect.

(I also feel like I should know you from somewhere, but one doesn't ask around the internetz.)

Hello friend! I know you. You're also welcome to message or email me whenever, since I've been dealing with Hashimoto's disease (= autoimmune hypothyroidism) for a few years, and I take Synthroid + Cytomel for it.

Thyroid.about.com if you want mote info, including how much bigger a range.us covered by the lab reference values on which most mds still rely than by the "new" standards endocrinology associations adopted mire thsn a decade ago. 0.5 to 5.0 for TSH isn't a normal rqnge, it's a basketball court. Not that I am cranky or anything. ;) Lots of malfy thyroids in my family, too, in case you hadn't guessed.

Very glad your doc agreed to treat! Hurrah for.having actual energy!

I know a lot of people who use the stuff and it can be a game changer. Especially opposite depression.

If you still end up way more tired than you used to be, and you snore, it is also worth checking for sleep apnea. Lousy sleep is another thing that interferes with everything way more than you notice. I glory in my darth vader mask.</p>

That borderline stuff is always questionable. The lines are arbitrary guidelines, and if you don't seem to be suffering from the thing the number would indicate, why medicate? Some people feel just fine with low numbers, and some people feel like death walking if they fall below average for whatever the thing is.

Huh. Everyone I know who has gone on it has had great luck. And for some reason, it seems like at least half the people I know use it.

And, I demand a picture of thyroid butterflies. Since it kind of looks like a butterfly anyway, it's very appropriate.