Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Graves' Disease

I’ve mentioned it here before, but just in case there are a few of you out there who don’t know what Graves’ Disease is, I thought I’d share. (Just like in first grade when I had to bring something in for show-and-tell and I completely forgot until the morning of. My mom quickly ripped out a sales flyer for kites and thus began my fear of public speaking… I digress.)

I thought I’d share because Graves’ Disease is one of those things that can go hand-in-hand with diabetes, but you don’t always hear a lot about it.

Graves’ Disease is the most common form of hyperthyroidism. It occurs “when your immune system mistakenly attacks your thyroid gland” (I quote from the Web site, because they’re so gosh-darned eloquent—and I don’t want to get any of the facts wrong).

My Graves’ Disease was discovered very shortly after my diabetes diagnosis. After the whole hospital thing and I was back living in my own life with the added bonus of insulin, I found me a regular doctor. The first thing she did was run a whole panel of bloodwork to see what else might be wrong. She noticed my levels of the hormone thyroxine were high (that’s what the thyroid gland produces) and she sent me to an endocrinologist.

Now, not only does Graves’ Disease go well with diabetes, it’s also hereditary. While no one in my immediate family has diabetes, my father does have Graves’ Disease. I was an easy mark.

The endocrinologist confirmed I was on my way to full-blown Graves’ Disease, but hadn’t arrived there yet. Before anything could be done, my thyroxine levels had to be sky-high. And this is where the fun part comes in.

I had to have blood drawn every three weeks to test what my levels were doing. This went on for five months. In the meantime, the symptoms of Graves’ Disease starting appearing. Basically, it makes your metabolism speed up like a frickin’ freight train (Footloose, anyone?). I started losing a lot of weight (even more than with the diabetes), my heartrate was going through the roof (they gave me meds to slow it down), I had an endless supply of energy and the appetite of a large Canadian moose (maybe American, I don’t know for sure).

When my levels had finally reached a place my endocrinologist declared appropriate, I drank a radiation cocktail that’s purpose was to destroy my thyroid gland. (I had to avoid babies and small animals for 24 hours because I was so radiant (note how I turned that into a positive. I was radiant, not radioactive.)) Then the fun continued.

I had to wait until my thyroxine levels dropped to nothing before they could give me meds. Again, another round of blood tests every three weeks. This time around, I was experiencing the opposite symptoms: rapid weight gain, feeling incredibly tired all of the time, no energy. I basically sat on my couch feeling crappier and crappier until about the fourth month when it was finally declared I could start on synthetic thyroxine (brand name: Synthroid). The fun continued.

They have to start you on a low dosage and gradually increase it so they can get your levels to just the right point without going too far over. Another round of blood tests, this time every four weeks. I went through three dosages before they settled on one that seemed to be working.

Now, I take a pill every single day, and will continue to take a pill every single day for the rest of my life. The thing with Synthroid (although I use the generic version, which is much, much cheaper, but I don’t happen to know its name, so I’m using “Synthroid” to make my life easier), the thing with Synthroid is that in order for it to work the most effectively, it has to be taken at the same time every day. It also has to be taken on an empty stomach, and you can’t eat for at least an hour, preferably two, after you’ve taken it. It can also mess with birth control pills.

So, given all that, and throwing diabetes into the mix, I have my alarm set for 4am in the morning. I wake up, throw back the pill, then go back to sleep. I do it this early in the morning because when I wake up, I exercise right away. If my sugar is too low, I have to eat. I can’t eat if I’ve just taken the pill, so waking up earlier allows me to eat when I’m ready to exercise. I take my birth control at night to solve that issue.

I’m down to having the thyroxine levels checked once a year, but if I’m feeling really crappy and sluggish and gaining weight without being able to lose it, then I ask for the test. It’s only happened once in the last five years and they did raise my dosage. (The dosages are color-coated and I’m now in the purple zone. It’s a pretty pill.)

So that’s my Graves’ Disease. Exciting, no? Just one of the many reasons Lora has a pharmacy permanently attached to her hip… But hey, at least I got to say I was radioactive (or radiant, depending on my mood).

As always, more to come…


Anonymous said...

thank you! i know this is an old post, but it reassures me! i have Graves and am thinking i need the A1C test for diabetes. I am post-radioiodine, about 6 weeks. time for bloodwork! and your symptoms are about what mine are starting to me. what joy!

Anonymous said...

Thank you.. I also have graves and diabetes and understand your pain...Was researching info on the computer and came across your blog..

Thyla said...

my son is like you but his type I diabetes was diagnosed after the doctor found nodules on his thyroid. he was only 14 and they didn't give him the radioactive iodine as they are trying to make it go into remission. i also have graves (no diabetes though). it's a freaky disease when it's in full swing isn't it? (anxiety!)

Anonymous said...

I've got diabetes and just been diagnosed with graves so have all this to come. Great read to prepare me. Thank you :) x

FoxyRoxy78 said...

I hope it helps for you to know that you're not the only one experiencing these problems. I've had Type I Diabetes for the past 11 yrs & more recently, diagnosed with Graves' Disease and also carry the antibodies for Hoshimoto's Disease as well. Oh joy! My thyroglobulin levels were off the charts.....the highest that they could possibly detect. I'm a mess! I feel like a crazy person. I can deal with the symptoms but I'm more fearful of Graves opthomopathy. It's tolerable if I feel like crap.....I just don't wanna look like it.

Kristin Poole said...

I'm going through this exact same thing... Only I found out about my graves disease before my diabetes. I was hospitalized and was pre-DKA (Diabetic Keto-Acidosis), and now I'm home and my blood sugar is way high because my thyroid still isn't under control with the new medication. I was literally just diagnosed with both of these not even a week ago. And it's very scary :(