The thyroid is a little butterfly-shaped gland that lives in the middle of your neck, and controls your body's metabolism. The thyroid is part of the body’s endocrine system, where diabetes also dwells.

Because patients with one organ-specific autoimmune disease are at risk of developing other autoimmune disorders, people with diabetes have a higher instance of thyroid disorders.

Thyroid disorders are also hereditary and will often be seen in many family members. It is also more common in women than in men and is more common in older persons.

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism happens when antibodies attack the thyroid gland, and the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone anymore. About three percent of the general population has low thyroid levels.

Some symptoms of hypothyroid include the following: fatigue, poor muscle tone, an increased sensitivity to cold, depression, muscle cramps, goiter, thin brittle fingernails, thin brittle hair, paleness, decreased sweating, dry and itchy skin, weight gain, water retention, low heart rate (less than 60 beats/min), and constipation. If ignored, symptoms can become worse and include slow speech, a hoarse voice, dry puffy skin on one’s face, abnormal menstrual cycles and low body temp. Osteoporosis and hgh cholesterol are other dangerous side effects. There are some other less common symptoms, including impaired memory, hair loss, irritability, and shortness of breath.

To diagnose hypothyroidism, doctors generally measure TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone), which is produced by the pituitary gland. TSH should be between 0.5-4.7 u/L. If TSH is high, the thyroid is not producing enough thyroid hormone (T4 and T3). Hypothyroidism is generally treated with thyroxine (synthroid, levoxyl, levothyroxine re some common names of thyroxine). The medication must be taken daily and not with a multivitamin as iron binds thyroxine and will make it not work effectively.

Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism is when the thyroid gland is overactive, leading to an overproduction of thyroid hormone. When too much hormone is released, body systems “speed up” leading to symptoms including fast heartbeat, nervous system tremors and anxiety, diarrhea and weight loss. Symptoms also include intolerance to heat, hair loss, weakness, rritability, osteoporosis, and tremors. Doctors measure TSH to determine whether you have hyperthyroidism. Generally a physician will use a drug or surgery or radiation treatment to “slow down” the thyroid gland and then eventually the person will end up needing thyroid replacement, long-term. They kind of develop a “secondary” hypothyroidism once the gland has been slowed down.

Treating Thyroid Problems

The most important thing to understand when a person has a problem with their thyroid, is that as long as it is treated and one’s TSH level is normal, there will be no dangerous side effects. One cannot take prescribed pills randomly, pills should be taken as recommended by their physician every single day, preferably at the same time. The side effects of hypothyroidism will resolve once thyroid levels are normal again.

One study indicated that if a person has hypothyroidism, the metabolism of insulin may slow down, thus leading to a decreased need for insulin for a short amount of time. Warfarin, dopamine and teroids can effect how thyroid medication works, so just be sure that your physician knows what medications you are taking and that you are taking them the way the doctor recommends.

Once again, it is kind of a pain to take yet another med, but at least it is one of the cheapest pills available and is very easy to take. No syringes involved! (Whew!)

Source: Jack DeRuiter (2002) (PDF). Thyroid Pathology. pp. 30.