The truth about hidden disorder affecting millions

LEIGH WILSON blamed life and lockdown for feeling depressed, tired and putting on weight.

She had just endured an “awful” break-up and moved back in with her parents, along with her daughter Cayti, 22.

Leigh told Sun Health: 'All my problems started in lockdown. I felt low and my mental health really suffered'

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Leigh told Sun Health: ‘All my problems started in lockdown. I felt low and my mental health really suffered’Credit: Leigh Wilson

Leigh, 47, told Sun Health: “All my problems started in lockdown. I felt low and my mental health really suffered.

“I ended up having CBT as well as taking a low dose of antidepressants to combat my anxiety and depression.

“I was uncontrollably tired, plus I experienced weight gain, which made me feel more sad.”

Leigh loved being around her family and friends, and could not understand why it wasn’t helping her more.

I'm a doctor and here's what your vagina is really trying to tell youWarning to women taking the pill as common procedure makes it less effective

A chat to her GP about starting HRT for menopause symptoms uncovered the real cause of her problems.

It was her thyroid, a tiny butterfly-shaped gland in front of the windpipe.

Its job is to produce two hormones — triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) — that help to regulate metabolism.

Leigh’s thyroid was not producing enough hormones — a condition called hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid.

A team from Aberdeen University has now found a link between thyroid disease and the gender pay gap.

They discovered women with undetected hypothyroidism earn five per cent less than those with no thyroid problems.

Men with the same condition suffered no change in pay.

Nutritionist Gail Madalena said symptoms can develop slowly and easily be mistaken for other conditions.

Leigh, of Staines-upon-Thames in Surrey, said: “I’m so glad my GP checked, and re- checked six weeks later. My levels of TSH, T3 and T4 were absolutely terrible.”

One in 20 British people has a thyroid problem, and women are six times more likely to develop one than men.

Experts say it is likely this is just the tip of the iceberg, with many going undiagnosed.

At the other extreme is hyperthyroidism, or an overactive thyroid, for which it is equally vital to seek help.

Gail said: “If you experience any symptoms persistently, or a severe, sudden onset of any, talk to your GP. If you feel a lump or mass on your thyroid, get this checked too.”

Bulging eyes can be a sign of autoimmune condition Grave’s disease, in which the immune system attacks the thyroid.

I was uncontrollably tired, plus I experienced weight gain, which made me feel more sad.

Leigh Wilson

A blood test can detect it and help medics tailor a treatment.

Gail said: “For an underactive thyroid, you will usually be prescribed a dose of levothyroxine to help regulate your thyroid and ease symptoms.

“For an over-active thyroid, a group of antithyroid medications can help stop your thyroid producing excess hormones.”

For Leigh, her diagnosis was just the beginning, and five months after starting treatment with levothyroxine she says progress is slow but sure.

Her symptoms have impacted every part of her life and she said: “The weight gain is really embarrassing and doesn’t help with my self-esteem. I just feel it makes me look middle-aged through no fault of my own.

“The tiredness and feeling down can be crippling and affects my motivation a lot.”

Leigh, who is head of client engagement at a software firm, added: “About three months ago, I did start to doubt if I could keep up with my role and do it justice. My boss has been fantastic, but I have questioned whether I should go part-time, which would have been financially very difficult.”

The biggest impact has been on her home life.

She said: “I’d been letting things go. I felt like I was letting my friends and family down a lot, cancelling plans because I’m so tired.

“My new partner is incredibly supportive and understanding. It’s not the easiest thing to deal with in a new relationship.

“My daughter and close family are great too, but I still feel guilty and sad, as I’m not being the best mum, girlfriend, sister, daughter or auntie.”

Leigh accepts it is something she has to live with for life.

She said: “Although my symptoms might not be severe on the outside, it’s a chronic disease. If I didn’t take medication, I would eventually die.

“I try to bear this in mind and be gentle to myself, until my levels get better. I want to get back to being my happy, fun, outgoing and thankful self.”

For more information on your thyroid health, and for support, visit Thyroid UK (thyroiduk.org).

Is YOUR thyroid out of whack?

UNDERACTIVE THYROID (HYPOTHYROIDISM)

  • Fatigue
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Weight gain
  • Depression and low mood
  • Reduction or loss of sex drive
  • Constipation
  • Brain fog
  • Suffering from muscle weakness or cramps
  • Dry skin, brittle hair and nails
  • Irregular or heavy periods
  • Pain, numbness or tingling in the hands and fingers

OVERACTIVE THYROID (HYPERTHYROIDISM)

  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Persistent tiredness and weakness
  • Sensitivity to heat
  • Swelling in your neck from an enlarged thyroid gland
  • Irregular or fast heart rate
  • Twitching or trembling
  • Weight loss

Nutritionist Gail Madalena said symptoms can develop slowly and easily be mistaken for other conditions

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Nutritionist Gail Madalena said symptoms can develop slowly and easily be mistaken for other conditionsCredit: Getty

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