Thyroid Disorders and Diabetes

Posted by on Aug 21, 2014 in News | 0 comments

Profile 2Thyroid disorders and diabetes mellitus are very common in our society. Studies showed that thyroid disorders are much more common among diabetics and up to one third of type I diabetics eventually develop some form of thyroid disorder. Both thyroid disorders and diabetes are part of endocrine disorders where problem is originated in endocrine glands. Thyroid disorders are due to overproduction or underproduction of thyroid hormones by thyroid gland.

Thyroid gland is located in front of the neck below Adam’s apple. Thyroid hormones production is controlled by another endocrine gland in the brain called pituitary gland. Thyroid hormones regulate body’s metabolism which affects many organs including heart, digestive tract, muscles and etc. Diabetes is due to lack of insulin production in the pancreas or body cells are resistant to insulin. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood glucose. Pancreas is one of the endocrine glands (hormone producing gland) located behind the stomach.

Type I diabetes occurs when the body’s immune system destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Similarly, thyroid disorders can be due to immune system attacking thyroid gland. That is one of the reasons for thyroid disorders being more common in type I diabetes. For thyroid disorders, you can either have hyperthyroidism (too much thyroid hormones) or hypothyroidism (too little thyroid hormones). The symptoms differ in these conditions. A person with hyperthyroidism may complain of rapid or irregular heartbeats, anxiety, irritability, weight loss despite normal or increased appetite, diarrhea, tremors in the hands, muscle weakness and heat intolerance (sweating more than usual). Women may experience irregular menstrual period.

On the other hand, a person with hypothyroidism may experience fatigue, shortness of breath with exercise, weight gain despite normal appetite, cold intolerance, thin or coarse hair and constipation. Women may have menstrual irregularity. Both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism can interfere with your diabetes management. If you are diabetic and develop hyperthyroidism, your blood glucose will be high even when you are taking insulin or oral medications regularly. Medications or insulin could not stay in the bloodstream long enough since your metabolism is faster. Also, hyperthyroidism may be confused with signs of hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) such as sweating, racing heartbeats and tremors because both conditions present with similar symptoms. Having hypothyroidism can affect your blood glucose as well. Individuals with diabetes may experience repeated episodes of low blood glucose because medications or insulin will stay longer in the bloodstream. In addition, hypothyroidism will raise your LDL (the bad cholesterol) and triglycerides levels.

In diabetics, thyroid symptoms can be a bit difficult to diagnose because of the similarity. Therefore, serum TSH is recommended as a screening tool. When you are first diagnosed with type II diabetes, TSH should be done at that time and it should be repeated every few years. If you are diagnosed with type I diabetes, your doctor will check for antibodies (specific proteins) against thyroid hormones as well as serum TSH. If antibodies are found, TSH screening will be done every year. In conclusion, thyroid disorder should be treated promptly especially in diabetics because it will improve blood glucose management greatly.

Contributed by Patricia Hsiao M.D.

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