It’s manageable with medication and monitoring from a doctor but is so frequently used as an excuse.
What is the Thyroid gland?
If it is under-active it can lead to a condition known as hypothyroidism, which can produce many symptoms, such as severe fatigue, weakness and depression, and raise the risk of cardiovascular disease.The thyroid gland controls the rate at which the body burns energy and makes hormones, which help regulate heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature
An under-active thyroid, or hypothyroidism, develops when the thyroid gland produces too little thyroxine, and it is becoming more prevalent because of the ageing population.
“The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) recently set out guidance for how hypothyroidism should be diagnosed and treated in the UK.
It says the only accurate way to diagnose a thyroid disorder is via a blood test which measures hormone levels, and the only scientifically proven way of treating the condition is by topping up a patient’s natural thyroxine levels with a synthetic form of the hormone.”
It is usually a degenerative condition which is more common in older people but it can develop at any time of life and without any previous family history. Congenital hypothyroidism is when an infant is born with the condition and thanks to modern routine screening (a heel prick blood test within 4 days of birth) these cases are picked up and treated throughout the course of their lives. In these cases a complete inactivity can occur. Unfortunately the congenital condition is rare enough that doctors are yet to discover a cause. It is highly unlikely for the condition to be passed on from parent to child. In the UK there are only 2 familial cases of congenital hypothyroidism; my son and I am one of them (lucky us).
There is no cure. It will not get better on its own. It requires constant monitoring and medication for life.
My son and I were both with the congenital form of the condition. My son underwent a scan to find out the cause of his inactive thyroid (it had not moved into the throat and was still semi-developed under his tongue. I do not know why mine is inactive because 30 years ago there was no facility to scan in that detail. The difference between my son and I is that the technician who was processing the batch of tests mine was in messed it up and my parents were not alerted (there is no all clear, if you haven’t heard in 5 days, you should assume a good result). Infants who are diagnosed promptly (as my son was) and prescribed the artificial replacement hormone should suffer no ill-effects if treated and maintained correctly. I was diagnosed 6 weeks late and symptoms had already become advanced and they not completely reversible.
Due the error of one person I have been left with permanent symptoms of the condition that no tablet can counteract. I nearly died at six weeks old due to a wrong diagnosis. Slurred speech and coordination aside, sometimes just getting out of bed in the morning is a battle of attrition. When you have an under active or in active thyroid, you know about it but you manage because you have to.
Obesity from Hypothyroidism
Hypothyroidism is managed with a single dose of thyroxine or the artificial alternative, Levothyroxine (I’m on 200 mcg a day because I have no thyroid function). While it is true that untreated hypothyroidism sometimes leads to unexplained weight gain, once treatment begins that weight is as easily lost as any other. There is a correlation between obesity and hypothyroidism though tests are inconclusive as to whether it is a cause or an effect of the condition. Therefore declaring that your inability to leave your house or walk across a room due to your weight and size is caused by an easily managed condition is actually quite insulting to those who have it and manage it. Hypothyroidism if untreated is life threatening. When passed off as an excuse, you trivialise it.
“While obesity has been historically considered criteria to establish the diagnosis of hypothyroidism, the association between them is seldom encountered in patients. Nowadays the main metabolic criteria are the gain of weight in the presence of other symptoms of hypothyroidism. The large differences between the thermogenesis of hypothyroid and hyperthyroid patients underline the complex relationship of thyroid hormones and metabolic pathways. The treatment of a subclinical hypothyroidism has almost no influence on the body weight, whereas in more severe dysfunctions a weight loss is expected, usually less than 10% of body weight. Thereafter severe obesity may not be secondary to a thyroid failure.”
Please do not use hypothyroidism as an excuse, especially if you know you have not been diagnosed with it or even tested with it. It’s one of those ‘invisible’ conditions, and those of us that have it manage it usually being thought of as malingerers and lazy. It’s manageable but that does not mean it isn’t serious.
There is a serious risk when the condition is wrongly diagnosed. It is just as dangerous to be prescribed thyroxine when you don’t need it as it is to not have enough when you do. The plethora of wrong information and websites claiming to offer alternative or natural means of diagnosis and treatment is truly astonishing and extremely dangerous.
Do not be misled by the small size and unimpressive nature of the thyroxine tablets; this hormone is absolutely essential for the normal growth and development of your child. Herbal ‘alternatives’ will make you and your child extremely ill. If you are worried go to see a licensed doctor and ask for a TSH/T4 blood test. Do not try to diagnose or treat yourself and do NOT try to obtain, ‘alternatives’ online.
“On treatment the child with CHT is normal. Thyroxine is not really a medication – it is simply an exact replacement of a missing chemical. The child can therefore have the usual set of immunizations and treatments needed for other conditions without any problems. There is a natural tendency to worry that quirks of physique or behaviour may relate to the CHT or its treatment but be assured that as long as the thyroxine dose is appropriate then this is not the case.”
 (The BBC, Wednesday, 18 November 2009)
 (The BBC, Friday, 27 March 2009)
 (B.S.PE.D., 2011)
 (NCBI, 2008)
 (NCBI, 2009)
 (Shomon, 2006)
 (Stephen Barrett, 2006)
- B.S.PE.D., 2011. Congenital Hypothyroidism. [Online] Available at: http://www.bsped.org.uk/patients/docs/NN_CONGENITAL_HYPOTHYROIDISM_June2011.pdf [Accessed 8 March 2012]. this hormone is absolutely essential for the normal growth and development of your.
- NCBI, 2008. Hypothyroidism and obesity. Cause or effect? [Online] Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18690306 [Accessed 8 March 2012].
- NCBI, 2009. Obesity and hypothyroidism: myth or reality? (Extract). [Online] Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17514926 [Accessed 8 March 2012].
- Shomon, M., 2006. About.Com – Thyroid Disease. [Online] Available at: http://thyroid.about.com/b/2006/11/09/can-your-hypothyroidism-be-treated-naturally.htm [Accessed 8 March 2012].
- Stephen Barrett, M.D., 2006. Quack Watch. [Online] Available at: http://www.quackwatch.org/11Ind/young.html [Accessed 8 March 2012].
- The BBC, Friday, 27 March 2009. BBC News – Health – Thyroid disorders ‘misdiagnosed’. [Online] Available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7965417.stm [Accessed 8 March 2012]. People with suspected thyroid disorders are being mistreated and misinformed, experts have warned.
- The BBC, Wednesday, 18 November 2009. BBC News – Health – Thyroid ‘risk from pre-eclampsia’. [Online] Available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/8362904.stm [Accessed 8 March 2012].