In the spring of 2009, I knew something was wrong. No matter how much rest I got at night or how many naps I took during the day, I never felt rested. My concentration was all over the place; I felt like I couldn’t sit down long enough to get a simple project done. I also noticed subtle changes in my appearance, with my hair falling out in clumps and my skin becoming flaky. With all of these symptoms, I made an appointment with my doctor to have my thyroid tested. Imagine my surprise when my TSH levels were completely normal! It was suggested, instead, that I had clinical depression, rather than a thyroid issue.
Although having a diagnosis was important, I didn’t believe that depression was to blame for my issues. Instead, I decided to pursue the issue further and made an appointment with an endocrinologist. For those who are undiagnosed, I would highly recommend getting a referral to an endocrinologist as well. My experience with this particular doctor was wonderful; he asked questions that related to the symptoms I was having and scheduled me for a number of tests. Upon examination, he also noted that I had an asymmetrical thyroid, so he ordered an ultrasound as well.
Both the tests and the ultrasound provided a bevy of information for me. I learned that although my TSH, T3 and T4 levels were normal, I had a high level of thyroid antibodies, indicating that there was a problem. From the ultrasound, I learned that I had a number of microscopic nodules that need to be monitored yearly as well. With that information, I went on my way and came back for a repeat appointment the following year.
During the next appointment, I repeated all of the same tests as before. Surprisingly, my TSH and T3 levels were both elevated, which meant that I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. The treatment, then, was to take a daily dose of thyroid replacement medication (Synthroid), which would help to make up for what I was lacking. This will be a medication that I will take for the rest of my life; nonetheless, the benefits were noticeable early on. Although I’m still tired, my hair had grown back and my skin looks a lot better. I’ve also noticed an improvement in my concentration. It’s amazing that one small pill can make such a difference!
The take-home message is this: if you feel that something is wrong, make sure to follow up with a doctor. If necessary, find a specialist and get a second opinion. If you have a suspected thyroid problem, ask for tests for TSH, T3, T4, and antibodies; each test provides a bit more information to solve the puzzle. It’s important to be your own advocate, much like I had to be.