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HeadWay, Issue #019 -- Your thyroid, and hidden triggers
February 21, 2005

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In this month's issue:

Your thyroid and hidden triggers...

Recent posts of interest

Say what?! TSH, the Thyroid Stimulating Hormone Test

Your thyroid and hidden triggers...

You've been diagnosed with migraine. Finally, you understand what's going on. But you're having a hard time finding treatment that works. What's going on?

You may be the victim of an incomplete diagnosis, a misdiagnosis, or a hidden trigger. A misdiagnosis is common - many people are diagnosed with sinus headache when they really have migraine. Some people diagnosed with migraine actually have cluster headaches. An incomplete diagnosis occurs when you're missing the real cause of the migraine, which could be a hidden trigger. Thyroid disorders are a perfect example.

It all started when I was thirteen. I had severe migraines; I was exhausted, nauseous, and had terrible PMS... Over the next two years I saw allergists, neurologists, and endocrinologists. The allergists said I was allergic to dust, but the treatment didn't help. The first endocrinologist said my thyroid tests were normal and there was nothing wrong...
~Nancy R (from What Your Doctor May NOT Tell You about Hypothyroidism)

Could thyroid problems be triggering your migraine symptoms? It is estimated in the United States that more people suffer from thyroid disorders than cancer and diabetes combined. Since your thyroid is so important for the smooth functioning of the body, and the way it adjusts to its environment, symptoms can be diverse. Some get depressed during certain seasons of the year. Headaches. Fatigue. Weight gain. Anxiety.

Hyperthyroidism is basically an overactive thyroid. Hypothyroidism is an underactive thyroid. Though more common in women, men often deal with thyroid disorders too. Our friend Nancy above did finally get a proper diagnosis, and it changed her life. But it took a lot of perseverance!

The other challenge can be a reaction to the treatment itself. HeadWay subscriber Jean from Canada writes in the HeadWay Mailroom (password nomoache):

I have been a sufferer from many years, but since being diagnosed with Hashimoto's [a form of Hypothyroidism] and subsequent treatment for that, attacks have skyrocketed out of control leading to being hospitalized frequently. Doctors now agree that the thyroid treatment is responsible for these attacks and are really at a loss how to proceed. At the moment I've stoped the thyroid treatment which I know can only be a short-term measure...

In Jean's case, the treatment was as bad as the disease. Dealing with hormonal and chemical issues in the body is always a challenge for the migraineur. One thing impacts another, and it's very easy for the symptoms to escalate. So what's the answer?

Working through thyroid issues

1. Recognize that a diagnosis is not always a complete diagnosis. Is there another underlying problem? If you have symptoms of a thyroid disorder, realize that the common TSH test is not always accurate. If you've been diagnosed with migraine, ask yourself if there could be a hidden trigger.
2. Take a more wholistic approach to your treatment. Learn about various treatment options. Like migraine treatment, there are a number of ways to deal with Hypothyroidism - don't give up!
3. Persevere. You may not have to "just live with it"!

You can find help for thyroid disorders at these thyroid organizations in Canada, the UK, and the USA. I am indebted to Drs Paul Ruggieri and Scott Isaacs for their overview of the current understanding of these disorders in A Simple Guide to Thyroid Disorders, and to Dr Ken Blanchard and Marietta Abrams Brill in What Your Doctor May NOT Tell You about Hypothyroidism. If you're looking for more treatment options, this second book is worth a read.

Recent posts of interest

Have you checked out the new frequently updated news page? If not, here are some things you've missed in the past few weeks...

More clues about migraine and stroke
Diet and the stroke connection
Scuba diving and migraine
The world decides the fate of the Cox-2s
...and many more

Say what?! TSH, the Thyroid Stimulating Hormone Test

TSH is a common blood test for hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. If the levels of this hormone are high in the bloodstream, it's a sign of hypothyroidism. If levels are low, it's a sign of hyperthyroidism. Your levels of TSH are compared to a reference range. There is controversy over what the reference range should be. For example, in the USA the recommended range was changed in 2003. Your results can also vary from lab to lab. Other factors and tests are needed for proper diagnosis and treatment.
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