From the beginning of the 20th century, endocrinologists had already noticed the link between thyroid insufficiency andarthritic joint pain; it is in fact one of the most constant symptoms! Other studies, this time dating from the end of the last century, show the prevalence of rheumatoid arthritis to be three times higher in patients with thyroid dysfunction.
For around fifteen years now, several authors have associated fibromyalgia with an insufficient level of active thyroid hormone T3. Whilst the first articles on this subject came out between 1997 and 2003 in minor medical journals, it was the renowned Journal of Rheumatology that published a study in 2004, the results of which established a conclusive link between fibromyalgia and autoimmune thyroid disease. You will find all these references on my website www.gmouton.com, under the heading “Conferences – Functional Hormonology – Thyroid” (free download).
Also in the neurological field, it appears that thyroid hormones exert a neuroprotective effect towards axonal pathologies (axons are the nerve fibres, the long slender extensions of the neurons that transmit messages to other neurons). Some can even see the demyelination of the neurons as a complication of autoimmune thyroid disease. When the myelin sheath (this insulation that protects axons just like the colourful plastic sheaths that insulate electrical cables) is attacked by autoantibodies, multiple sclerosis ensues, anautoimmune disease affecting the nervous system. However, the link between MS and autoimmune thyroid disease has been well published, as is the fact that in some experimental models of demyelination, thyroid hormones improve and accelerate remyelination….
We stay in the neurological sphere to list a series of dysfunctions and proven pathologies for which an association with hypothyroidism has been the subject of scientific publications. Namely these are mood disorders, depression, manic depression or bipolar disorder, cognitive impairment, lack of concentration, memory loss, melancholy, anxiety, panic attacks, dementia, and most psychoses. It is also well recognized in the world of psychiatry that thyroid hormones can dramatically improve the efficacy of drug treatment with antidepressants or psychotropic drugs.
One might also wonder about the possibility of a therapeutic effect of thyroid hormones in their own right, instead of first prescribing drug treatments. It is not uncommon to see some psychiatrists prescribe T3 and I would say that, in general, in patients suffering from severe depression, they tend to go for a very high dosage!
How many patients receive antidepressants to treat their depression when in reality they are suffering from undiagnosed hypothyroidism? I do not pretend that this is an absolute rule, but a search for other signs and symptoms that could suggest a thyroid insufficiency is of the utmost importance to avoid missing the true diagnosis. We must look for these too often unaccounted for links, especially if the root cause of the depression or anxiety is at the level of the thyroid. This will yield much better results, as is the rule in medicine when you treat the underlying cause!
Some authors even go so far as to claim that bipolar disorder doesn’t exist as such and that it is “always” a symptom reflecting hypothyroidism. I wouldn’t go that far but, in my clinical experience, I must admit that it has very often been the case…