For several years I seem fatigued and always tired. I was in my early 40s at the time and had young children. I shrugged off any concern and assumed I just wasn’t getting enough sleep as I would be up late with one of the kids and then have to get up early with the other.
But as my children grew a bit older and slept well through the night, I still could not get my energy back even though I was getting fairly consistent good sleep. I would sleep for 8 or 9 hours most nights and still was tired. I mentioned this to my doctor but she did not find anything that could be the cause, although she did not run any tests either. In addition to being tired all the time, I also seemed to feel cold much of the time.
During a routine appointment with my OB/Gyn I mentioned being tired and cold much of the time, not really thinking she would know the reason, but more just a general statement of my condition. She suggested that I have a blood test to measure my thyroid function. The test was run and the results showed I had hypothyroidism or an underactive thyroid gland.
Finding out I had hypothyroidism also explained why I could never seem to have decent fingernails. Mine would split and break very easily, which turns out to be a sign of a low thyroid. Brittle hair is another symptom of a low thyroid, but was not a symptom I had experienced.
The treatment for hypothyroidism is typically a medication, thyroid hormone, which needs to be taken lifelong after being diagnosed with the disease. The problem I have had is to find a doctor who will fine tune the level of medication based on my symptoms and not just a TSH blood test. The normal range for TSH is the human bloodstream is fairly wide and since I had not had a TSH test before developing hypothyroidism, no one knew what level of TSH was normal for me (or what my TSH blood level was before the onset of hypothyroidism).
In addition to finding the right level of medication, there is synthetic thyroid medication as well as “natural” thyroid medication made from swine. The difference between these medications is the synthetic thyroid medication only includes 1 of the 2 thyroid hormones naturally occurring in our bodies and the “natural” thyroid medication made from swine contains both, but not in the same proportions as in the human body.
I was lucky enough to find a doctor who had experience with prescribing the “natural” thyroid medication and through months of fine tuning the dosage, was able to minimize many of the symptoms of low thyroid and keep my TSH blood level within the normal ranges.
Unfortunately, over the past several years the health insurance plans I have been covered under have excluded the “natural” thyroid medication from their lists of covered medications and I have had to pay for the medicine myself as my insurance would not cover it. I was still willing to do this since I felt much better and had few symptoms of hypothyroidism while taking the “natural” thyroid medicine and the additional cost to me was only $10-$15 monthly.
More recently though, beginning about 18 months ago, I had difficulty getting the prescription filled and many of the symptoms of hypothyroidism began to reappear as I was not able to take the prescribed dosage due to the drug not being available consistently. I asked the pharmacist where I typically fill my prescriptions and was told there was a nationwide shortage of the medication while the drug maker was going through a FDA review of the drug.
Since the medication has once again become available over the past 6 months and I have been able to get the dosage prescribed, the low thyroid symptoms of tiredness, coldness and breaking nails have begun to subside. But now the monthly prescription costs me around $36.
Since I feel much better when I am taking the “natural” thyroid than when taking the synthetic thyroid, I will continue to pay the extra cost as long as I can.
I strongly urge anyone with hypothyroidism who is not getting relief from the symptoms to work with their doctor to find tune the dosage and possibly even the medication until the symptoms are minimized. And if your doctor is not willing to work with you, then I strongly recommend finding another doctor who will.