Life with Hashimoto's hypothyroidism can be very frustrating. The reason being is that Hashimoto's, the most common cause of low thyroid, is an immune problem that affects thyroid function, yet is treated the same way as every other form of hypothyroidism in conventional health care.
My son is now seven, and I think I can teach him the basic treatment approach to managing hypothyroidism from a conventional perspective.
Basic Conventional Management of Hypothyroidism (no matter what is the cause):
If the patient complains of fatigue, weight gain, cold hands, heart palpitations, or depression then test TSH. If the TSH is above 3.0 then prescribe hormone replacement. Continue to increase the hormone dose until the TSH measures below 2.0. If the patient continues to experience any of the symptoms after the thyroid is "balanced" on the lab tests then treat it as a separate condition and give the appropriate medication, usually anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medication.
Now what is the glaring problem in that approach?
1. Never is consideration given to the actual cause of the low thyroid. We never stopped to ask why is the thyroid not working?
2. Treating every symptom as a separate problem, although it is actually related to the thyroid problem not completely addressed can be dangerous and unnecessary. Are you depressed or do you still have a thyroid problem?
3. The approach, highly unlikely to change the actual problem, continues to get worse while we throw new medications at it while the patient suffers.
If our theoretical patient above lives in the United States then the most likely and common source of the problem is from Hashimoto's. Hashimoto's is an autoimmune disorder where the body attacks and destroys it's own thyroid tissue, leading to low thyroid hormone production.
So fundamentally the problem is an immune related problem, not so much a problem with the actual thyroid gland. So what does that mean for the patient getting standard conventional treatment only?
The thyroid replacement is making up for l0st thyroid function, but in the mean time the immune system is slowing destroying the thyroid. If nothing is done to address this immune attack then the problem will just continue to get worse.
Have you ever had the check engine light come on in your car? When that comes on do you put a piece of tape over the dashboard to cover up the light or do you investigate and find out what is going on with the car so the engine doesn't blow up? Ignoring the immune system's role in most hypothyroid cases is very much that same thing as taping up the dash board.
The target of the therapy really needs to be aimed at quenching the immune attack on the thyroid. This creates the best possible outcome for the patient and short-cuts a lot of the frustration patients feel when they are diagnosed with this disease.