Hypothyroidism is a common complaint of many fibromyalgia patients. In fact, numerous people throughout the world suffer from both hypothyroidism and fibromyalgia syndrome. However, because the symptoms of both illnesses are so similar, it can be difficult to know if you are actually suffering from hypothyroidism. Be sure to speak with your health care provider about a diagnosis, because, if left untreated, hypothyroidism can lead to a number of complications.
What is Hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism is a disorder of the thyroid gland. A very common disorder, it affects more than 20 million people in the United States. The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped gland found in the front of your neck. It is responsible for releasing two different hormones, thyroxine and triiodothyronine, that help us to manage our metabolism, growth, and cellular development. Sometimes, your thyroid hormone can fail to produce enough of these hormones. As a result, you develop hypothyroidism, a condition which can produce many uncomfortable symptoms.
Hypothyroidism can affect both men and women, however, some people are more likely to the develop the disorder than others. Women over the age of 40 are more prone to hypothyroidism and 17% of women over the age of 60 have the disease. Other risk factors for hypothyroidism include:
- having a close relative with the disease
- having diabetes
- having had thyroid surgery
- having undergone radiation therapy
Cause of Hypothyroidism
There are many reasons why a person might develop an under active thyroid gland. Common causes include:
- thyroid surgery
- exposure to radiation therapy
- autoimmune disease
- pituitary disorder
Unfortunately, it can be problematic determining the exact cause of hypothyroidism in some patients, especially those with fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia and Hypothyroidism: Concurrent Illnesses?
Fibromyalgia and hypothyroidism do seem to be connected in some way. The two illnesses share many of the same symptoms, including:
- widespread muscle pain
- muscle stiffness
- sleep disorders
Up to 15% of people with hypothyroidism suffer from fibromyalgia while many fibromyalgia patients have low-functioning thyroid glands. Some researchers believe that fibromyalgia and hypothyroidism actually result from the same cause. Both disorders are linked to illness, infection, chemical exposure, and nervous system disorders.
Unfortunately, many fibromyalgia sufferers are never diagnosed with hypothyroidism, as the disorder tends to overlap with fibromyalgia symptoms. Similarly, some people with hypothyroidism are never diagnosed with fibromyalgia. If you develop either condition, it is important to speak with your health care provider about the possibility that you may also be suffering from a concurrent illnesses.
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism
Hypothyroidism can cause a wide variety of symptoms. Symptoms tend to start off mildly before progressing to a more chronic state. Signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- cold sensitivity
- muscle and joint aches
- weight gain
- cognitive disorders, including memory loss
- hair loss
- puffiness around the eyes
Complications of Hypothyroidism
If left untreated, an under active thyroid gland can cause a host of problems. Possible complications include:
- heart disease
- myxedema coma (in which your blood pressure and heart rate drop causing you to lose consciousness)
Unlike fibromyalgia, there is a test available to diagnose hypothyroidism. The test is a simple blood test that measures levels of thyroid hormone in your bloodstream. However, many fibromyalgia sufferers never receive this test and therefore fail to be treated for concurrent hypothyroidism.
Hypothyroidism can be treated quite easily in most people. However, treatment is lifelong and must be monitored every three to six months. Treatment generally includes the medication levothyroxine, which stimulates your thyroid to produce more hormones.