For years I have been convinced that I’ve had thyroid problems. In fact, before I got my Lyme disease diagnosis and I only knew I had Fibromyalgia, I was convinced that I had Hashimoto’s disease. Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease where your immune system attacks your thyroid gland. The symptoms include fatigue, cold intolerance, joint and muscle pain and memory problems to name a few.
The link between the thyroid and Fibromyalgia
The symptoms are similar for an underactive thyroid without autoimmunity too. As you can see, there is an overlap of symptoms between Fibromyalgia and Hashimoto’s/underactive thyroid. I guess it’s the reason why I was convinced I had a problem. Thyroid problems and Fibromyalgia often go hand-in-hand. A top fibro doctor has also stated that many women are even misdiagnosed with Fibromyalgia when they actually have a thyroid disorder.
Like many though, I have previously had umpteen thyroid tests. Each one always came back as “within normal range”. I soon learned, however, that the NHS routinely only test for thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) and free thyroxine (FT4).
To give a very brief explanation, TSH is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland in the brain that stimulates the thyroid into producing more thyroid hormones. The two main thyroid hormones are T4 and T3. The body converts the hormone T4 into T3, which is the form that is used by the body’s cells.
The problem with routine thyroid tests
Testing for TSH and FT4 isn’t always sufficient. Unfortunately, these can both present as “normal” when a problem still exists. I’d say the problem is two-fold. Firstly, what the lab considers normal, may not be optimal for an individual. You can have a result come back within the reference range but present with symptoms because the figure is actually too low or too high for you.
Secondly, if you have results that come back as within the normal range for TSH and FT4 the chances are you won’t be tested for free T3 (FT3) or thyroid antibodies (which check for autoimmune disease). You can have normal T4 but your body can struggle to convert this to T3. Remember that it is T3 that your body actually uses.
Furthermore, your body can produce antibodies a long time before any problems show up with TSH or T4. Antibodies are not routinely tested for. You can be living with debilitating symptoms because your thyroid is essentially being destroyed, yet you are continually told your thyroid is fine!
My experience with past testing
As I mentioned I have had what feels like umpteen thyroid tests through my NHS doctor over the years. Each time I was always told they were normal. It wasn’t until I learned of the limitations of testing that I thought to pursue things further. Last August, I had private testing through Spire (a private UK hospital) to test for FT3 and thyroid peroxidase antibodies.
I wanted to check that my body was converting FT4 to FT3 and I wanted to see if I tested positive for antibodies. My thyroid peroxidase antibodies were negative and my FT3 was within normal range. I parked the idea of thyroid problems. Surely all the tests I had had over the years could safely rule this out? I didn’t know it at the time but I was very wrong!
Lyme disease & thyroid problems
In September last year, I learned that I had Lyme disease; a bacterial infection most commonly transmitted through infected ticks. I pursued private healthcare and thought that I had finally found the answer to my deteriorating health. Anything thyroid related was pushed to the back of my mind.
Over the past 8 months, I have been focussed on treating my Lyme disease. Things are going in the right direction, yet I still have some symptoms that are not improving. My Breakspear doctor suggested that I have thyroid testing back in March. I decided against it. Did I really want to pay to repeat a test that always came back negative?
Testing my thyroid through Medichecks
As time went on, though, the idea of thyroid testing chipped away at me. I decided to do some research and found that not only is there a link between Fibromyalgia and the thyroid, but also Lyme disease and thyroid problems. In particular, Lyme disease has been implicated in Hashimoto’s disease. I also had friends and family comment on how my symptoms sounded so much like underactive thyroid.
I did a bit of research and, through Thyroid UK, I came across a company called Medichecks. The thyroid tests seemed very comprehensive and affordable compared to what I had paid previously. Even better, I could do them from the comfort of my own home.
The ‘Thyroid Ultra Check’ test
I decided to purchase the ‘Thyroid Ultra Check‘ test. It looked like a very comprehensive test and included: TSH; FT4; FT3; Total T4; thyroid peroxidase antibodies; thyroglobulin antibodies; B12; Folate; Ferritin and C-Reactive protein (which measures inflammation in the body).
Taking the test
There were two ways I could take the test. I could have paid extra to go to a clinic approved by Medichecks or do a finger-prick blood draw at home. I opted to do it at home as the nearest clinic was around 30 miles away. There are far more down in England than here in Scotland.
I enlisted the help of my mother-in-law to do the finger-prick test. The kit comes with four lancets to prick your finger, alcohol wipes, moist wipes, a collection tube, labels, a return envelope (with paid postage) and instructions. It was straightforward to understand and there was a checklist to go through to make sure everything was done correctly.
The blood draw
Collecting blood from a finger-prick was trickier than I expected. I think my body is just awkward! We found it a bit tricky to get my blood into the collection tube as it wanted to go anywhere but and my fingers started clotting pretty quickly. We ended up using all four lancets and frustratingly, didn’t manage to fill the tube up to the indicated line. On a plus, it was thankfully a pretty painless experience.
The results of my ‘Thyroid Ultra Check’ test
Thankfully, the lab was able to use my sample even though I didn’t manage to fill my collection tube to the indicated line. I was impressed that I had the results of my ‘Thyroid Ultra Check‘ test back, complete with a doctor’s comments, within 48 hours. And I was shocked! I FINALLY had abnormal results. It’s taken 6 years for my thyroid to get in a bad enough place to throw up abnormal results. Wow.
I had “normal” TSH, low T4 and low T3. Furthermore, I had high thyroglobulin antibodies. Had I not tested through Medichecks, I may never have known this!! This is the first time I’ve ever had this test. The result was almost 3 times higher than the top figure given on the reference range. I can’t help but wonder how long this has been a problem for me.
I’m not going to comment too much on my results as I am yet to speak to my own doctor, so I’ll save that for a future post.
Would I recommend testing through Medichecks
I absolutely would recommend thyroid testing with Medichecks. I feel I have further answers that I hope will help me to feel better. It’s great how comprehensive and affordable their testing is (especially compared to other private tests). What’s more, Medichecks do “Thyroid Thursday” where they offer discounted prices on their thyroid tests every Thursday.
If you have Fibromyalgia or Lyme disease and your thyroid health has been on your mind, I’d highly recommend getting a full thyroid panel done. You can view all the different thyroid tests Medichecks offer here. And a list of all the tests they offer can be found here.
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What are your thoughts? Do you have thyroid problems in addition to Fibromyalgia or Lyme disease? Is this a test you would consider doing? Let me know in the comments below.
This post is not sponsored and I found and paid for this test with my own money. As I was so impressed with Medichecks I signed my blog up to their affiliate scheme.