DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have taught fourth grade for 20 years. This year I couldn’t wait for the summer break. I was feeling fine at the beginning of the year, but as the months passed, I could hardly make it through the day. I had no energy.
My husband insisted that I see a doctor. I did. The first doctor told me I was depressed. The second one took a longer time with me and ordered a batch of blood tests. My thyroid gland isn’t working. I have a condition with a foreignsounding name. Do you know what I’m talking about? Will you expand on it for me? — T.Y.
ANSWER: I’m sure you’re referring to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. The Hashimoto name is not recognized by most people. It is, however, in our part of the world, the most common cause of hypothyroidism — a nonworking thyroid gland.
The thyroid gland is located in the lower part of the neck. Thyroid hormone keeps all body cells and organs working at their peak efficiency. In Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, the immune system has attacked the gland for reasons that are not clear. It’s yet another example of an autoimmune disease, one where the immune system turns on its own body.
Signs of a lack of thyroid hormone come on gradually. Fatigue and weakness make it a heroic feat to get through the day. Hair might fall out. Skin becomes dry. Affected people feel cold when others are comfortably warm. Constipation is a common complaint. Menstrual cycles are erratic. Weight is gained in spite of a poor appetite and a decreased intake of calories.
In addition to these signs, the gland often enlarges — becomes a goiter.
Although Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and the resulting hypothyroidism are serious conditions, treatment is straightforward: Supply the missing thyroid hormone. Once on the pill form of the hormone, signs and symptoms disappear. It takes time, however, before a person notices big changes for the better.
The booklet on thyroid disorders discusses conditions of both under- and overactive thyroid glands in detail. Readers can obtain a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue — No. 401W, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853- 6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6 Canada with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Our 21-year-old daughter has been diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy. Her finger turned a shade of blue. She went to the emergency room and got the diagnosis there. What kind of doctor should we consult to determine if this is her condition? — V.C.
ANSWER: Your family doesn’t have a history of having peripheral neuropathy, right? So let’s remove all the genetic causes of it from consideration.
Twenty-one is young to come down with it. It’s more of an older person’s illness. People with diabetes and a few other diseases also are targets for it, but your daughter is in otherwise good health.
A blue finger isn’t a usual sign. Your daughter should see a neurologist or a vascular specialist to confirm this diagnosis, which appears a bit strange to me.
Readers may write Dr. Donohue or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475.
©2010 North America Synd.