Type 1 Diabetes Poses Risk of Thyroid Disease
Link between 'sister diseases' is rooted in immune system problem, expert says
Thyroid problems are often diagnosed through routine annual blood tests, according to both experts.
Untreated thyroid problems can affect blood sugar levels in people with type 1 diabetes. "If I see someone having a lot of trouble controlling their blood sugars, it could be the thyroid," noted Hatipoglu.
"People who are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes often work very hard to control their blood sugar, but if they're not aware of an underactive thyroid, they may have a lot of unexplained low blood sugars," she said. "If someone is hyperthyroid, they may have unexplained high blood sugars."
Sometimes people with type 1 diabetes gain weight from taking insulin, but unexplained weight gain can also be due to an underactive thyroid.
"People really need to be aware that if you have one of these conditions, you're at risk of the other," Schmeltz said. "And, symptoms aren't always so obvious. Someone might be tired a lot and think it's because of diabetes, and they end up ignoring thyroid symptoms."
He said the classic symptoms of an underactive thyroid are decreased energy, hair loss, inappropriate weight gain, feeling cold, constipation, dry skin, heavy periods and difficulty concentrating. Some of the symptoms also overlap with a diagnosis of depression.
Symptoms of an overactive thyroid, which are often mistaken for other conditions, include trouble concentrating, heat intolerance, frequent bowel movements, excessive sweating, increased appetite, unexpected weight loss, restlessness, a visible lump in the throat (goiter), nervousness and irregular menstrual periods, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Autoimmune thyroid disease is usually managed with a daily pill, according to Schmeltz. Hatipoglu said it's important to try to take this pill at the same time every day and to not eat for about 45 minutes after taking it. She said she tells her patients to take the pill before breakfast, or at night before bed if they have to get out the door quickly in the morning. "Take it when you know you can take it in the same way every day," she said.
Hatipoglu also pointed out that autoimmune thyroid disease can be episodic in the beginning.
"It's like a volcano erupting," she said. "It can happen on and off as the thyroid is being damaged by the immune system. One day it will be totally destroyed, but until you come to that point, it may come and go - for how long depends on the individual. For some it's months. For some it can be decades."