My Experience with Thyroid Disease and Psoriatic Arthritis

As the beginning of 2012 progressed, my health was on a steady decline. One afternoon at work, I remember speaking to a co-worker and feeling a flutter in my chest. Then, as I placed my hand over my heart, things went dark.

Next, I remember hands catching or holding me as I was slumping forward in my work chair. This all took place in less than two minutes. I wasn’t unconscious, but I wasn’t with it either. This moment led to my thyroid disease diagnosis.

What just happened? Was it related to my psoriatic arthritis?

I immediately called my primary doctor’s office. They told me to come right in. Heart palpitations weren’t out of the ordinary for me. I’ve experienced them throughout most of my life and they were always brushed off, until now. It was the first time anything like this had happened.

At my primary’s office, she ordered an EKG (also known as an ECG), which tests the electrical signals telling your heart to beat. It came back abnormal. I had never had one before, so we had nothing to gauge against it. She sent her nurse down the hall to the part-time cardiologist’s office. Luckily, he was working that day. A few minutes later I heard them chatting in the hall.

My doctor had a hunch...

My doctor came back in and said she was going to order some more labs and had a hunch. She made an appointment for me to meet with the cardiologist later in the week and we would discuss. I went back to the office a few days later to meet with both doctors.

The cardiologist introduced himself and said, “Your doctor had a hunch. She’s one of the smart ones.” He is an older gent, so I didn’t know how to take “smart ones” as meaning. He said he would run some tests and monitor me, but wanted to see how her treatment would work for me first. I grew concerned.

After moving to the next exam room, I heard my doctor and cardiologist in the hall. They were reviewing the labs she ordered stat. I heard an “ah-hah,” an “oh wow,” and an “okay, then.” Then, my primary walked into the room and asked if I wanted the good news or the bad news, first.

So, thyroid disease is good news?

“The good news is we actually know something for once because you have antibodies. And the bad news is that you have a lot – thousands.” I was positive for Hashimoto’s (an autoimmune disease that attacks the thyroid and can cause hypothyroidism). My Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) lab came back in the hundreds.

This meant I was severely hypothyroid. This explained the heart palpitation and constant fatigue. Hashimoto’s was creating an immune system attack upon the thyroid. This attack can and did cause fatigue as well as weight gain, despite being in a Crohn’s flare.

My Crohn’s disease diagnosis along with arthritis symptoms, led my doctor to check for thyroid disease as comorbidity. Basically, if you have one inflammatory condition, it shouldn't be surprising to find more conditions as the years go by.

A journey to diagnosis

Psoriatic arthritis is often diagnosed through a process of elimination. It makes it that much harder to track and treat. Having antibodies for this thyroid disease provides an easier route to diagnosis. However, treatment can still be a matter of trial and error with the right medication and dosing.

Not very different from other inflammatory conditions, right? Thyroid disease impacts each person differently, and the onus is really placed on the individual to understand their symptoms.

Just like with psoriatic arthritis, imaging is needed to track the progression of the disease. Hashimoto’s attacks the thyroid, so we do imaging every two years to check for nodules and changes that pose risk.

A body in motion, stays in motion

The good news is that thyroid diseases, like psoriatic arthritis, can be managed with medication. In some cases, not all, they can be managed with an anti-inflammatory diet. I emphasize diet isn’t for all, because everyone is built differently.

Thyroid disease, such as Hashimoto’s, can really zap you of energy. Psoriatic Arthritis can, too. Add in my Crohn’s disease and it becomes an exhausted party of 1 in bed. I often have to push myself to get things accomplished. A trip to the store or even the doctor can be exhausting and land me in bed the next day.

Push on, I must. Why? Because a body in motion stays in motion and that helps keep the creaking and aching joints at bay. Do you live with both psoriatic arthritis and thyroid disease? How have they impacted your life?

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