Thyroid problems are experienced by 6 percent of people with lupus at some point. In fact, thyroid problems are usually the first symptom of lupus.
Like lupus, thyroid diseases are hereditary. They can affect the function of other organs, such as the skin, heart, liver, brain and kidneys. This can lead to a variety of persistent and troublesome symptoms.
Lupus has been associated with thyroid function. Under-active and overactive thyroid are two typical examples. Below are nine important things to know about lupus and thyroid diseases.
Lupus and Thyroid Diseases: 9 Important Things to Know About
1. What are thyroid diseases?
The thyroid has an important role in the metabolism. It produces thyroid hormones to regulate the body functions. Too much thyroid hormones can lead to hyperthyroidism. Too less thyroid hormones can lead to hypothyroidism. These are called thyroid diseases.
Hyperthyroidism occurs due to many reasons, like:
- Graves’ disease
- Toxic multi-nodular goiter
- Hot nodules (nodules that that produce excess thyroid hormone)
- Excess consumption of iodine
Some of the most common causes of hypothyroidism are:
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
- Resistance to thyroid hormone
- Other types of thyroiditis that occur due to certain medications or radiation
2. What are the symptoms of thyroid diseases?
Many symptoms of thyroid diseases can overlap with lupus and other autoimmune diseases. The symptoms can be mild at first or take years to develop. An enlarged thyroid or a goiter is the first sign of these diseases. Often, it’s in the front of your neck and can make swallowing difficult.
The symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:
- Unintentional weight loss
- Irregular menstrual periods
- Intolerance for heat
- Increased sweating
- Fast heart rate
- Increase in bowel movements
Some of the most common symptoms of hypothyroidism may include:
- Weight gain
- Feeling cold
- Dry skin
- Hair loss
3. What tests can help doctors diagnose thyroid diseases?
A doctor can diagnose thyroid diseases by ordering some tests, like:
- Blood tests. These are used to test for the levels of TSH and the thyroid hormones in your blood.
- Imaging tests. They are used to identify thyroid nodules or enlargement.
- Thyroid scans. These are used to check for thyroid nodules and to identify hyperthyroidism.
- Fine needle aspiration biopsy. This helps test for thyroid cancer.
4. Is lupus associated with thyroid function?
Lupus is a chronic, autoimmune disease. It occurs when the body’s immune system becomes overactive and attacks itself.
In lupus, inflammation can occur anywhere in the body, including the skin, joints, heart, kidneys, brain, lungs and blood vessels. There is no clear evidence that lupus can attack the thyroid. But experts think that autoimmune attacks against the thyroid can contribute to this. Symptoms include weigh gain, weight loss, fatigue, moodiness, dry hair and skin. They usually go along with other symptoms of lupus, like:
- Joint pain
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Malar rash
- Unexplained fever
- Dry mouth or eyes
- Memory loss
5. What types of thyroid diseases are seen in people with lupus?
Lupus and thyroid diseases can coexist. Some of the most common thyroid diseases in lupus patients are:
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
- Graves’ disease
6. People with lupus are at increased risk of developing thyroid diseases? Why?
People with lupus often have thyroid problems. Here are four common causes.
- Lupus and some thyroid diseases are autoimmune diseases. They’re more common in women than men. If you are female and middle aged, you are most at risk.
- It is possible to have more than one autoimmune disease. If you have lupus, you are more likely to get other autoimmune diseases. Thyroid diseases are examples.
- As mentioned above, lupus and autoimmune thyroid diseases are hereditary. If you have a family history of these diseases, you can get them as well.
- Some medications used to treat lupus can be toxic to your thyroid. These are glucocorticoids (prednisolone) and antidepressant drugs.
7. How common are lupus thyroid diseases?
Dealing with thyroid problems while having lupus is not uncommon. The frequencies of thyroid diseases in lupus patients, according to statistics:
- Hyperthyroidism: accounts for 0% to 11% people with lupus
- Hypothyroidism: 4% to 24%
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis: 2% to 3%
- Graves’ disease: 1% to 3%
Read more: How to Live with Lupus in Winter Months
8. Is there a risk of thyroid cancer with lupus?
You can develop thyroid cancer if you have lupus. But the chances of that happening are quite rare (higher 1%). A study shows that hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism can’t make you likely to develop thyroid cancer. You’re only at risk of this cancer if you:
- Have certain types of non-cancerous thyroid diseases. They include goiter, thyroiditis and adenomas.
- Have had radiation therapy in the neck region.
- Have a family history of thyroid cancer.
- Are female and overweight
9. What medications are used to treat thyroid diseases in lupus?
Treating lupus can be hard and even harder if you have thyroid diseases. Thus, it is important to treat all the conditions at the same time.
There is no cure for lupus. But you can relieve symptoms and prevent future flare-ups by:
- Taking medications. NSAIDs. Corticosteroids. Antimalarial drugs. Immunosuppressant drugs. Speak to your doctor if these drugs can be toxic to your thyroid.
- Consuming a dietary supplement. LupuFree is one of the most common supplements for lupus. It can help fight inflammation and promote the immune system balance. Thanks to this, you can get rid of thyroid problems and other symptoms of lupus.
- Eating a well-balanced diet with calcium foods and healthy, fatty fish.
- Exercising regularly: stretching, walking, doing yoga.
Depending on your type of thyroid diseases, medications or surgery can work. Talk to your doctor for help and advice.