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Maybe Migraine Isn’t Always to Blame: Adventures in Hyperthyroidism

Since last summer, I’ve lost 15 pounds, eaten anything I’ve wanted without gaining weight, had night sweats, and have been even more intolerant to heat than usual. Nausea went from a rare problem to occasionally more debilitating than the head pain. It has barely abated in the last week.

As symptoms I assumed were migraine (nausea, nearly blacking out, fatigue) and depression (anxiety, restlessness, fatigue) added up, I had to wonder if something else was going on. Suspicious that my endocrine or metabolic systems were the culprit, yesterday I finally had the second follow-up appointment for the lump found on my thyroid in 2006.

With his wild gray curls, enormous smile and a Jerry Garcia tie, the endocrinologist won me over immediately. He listened to me carefully, felt my thyroid and sent me to the lab. In his words, had he been a betting man he’d put money on hyperthyroidism. Two vials of my blood will be tested for thyroid dysfunction and a host of metabolic disorders, including diabetes. The results should be available today or tomorrow.

I have to admit that I have my fingers crossed. I was about to write “I never thought I could be so happy being told I probably have hyperthyroidism.” Truth is, I’m thrilled every time there’s a clue something relatively easy to manage could be exacerbating my migraines.

I’m trying to control the nausea as much as possible as I wait for the news. Antiemetics have stopped the vomiting and I can keep down saltines and ginger ale. I’ve even managed some chicken soup. (Don’t worry, I’ll call my doctor if this continues.)

Baseball season started this week and I’m digging Netflix on demand, so I’m fairly well entertained. Sadly, working on the computer is still making me feel worse, so I’m not blogging, reading news, visiting the online support group and forum, or answering e-mail. In fact, 30 minutes on my computer is taking a toll.

I wrote this Wednesday morning and felt too sick to post it. Last night I drugged myself up and was able to eat real food. I feel better now than I have all week; I’d better get off the computer before I make myself sick again!

14 Responses to Maybe Migraine Isn’t Always to Blame: Adventures in Hyperthyroidism

  1. Beth says:

    I went through something similar last spring, summer, and fall. All kinds of bloodwork came back normal. Are your night sweats cold or hot? Mine would leave me with soaked pajamas and freezing. I was even sweating a lot during the day. I was dehydrated frequently and my blood glucose levels kept dipping (I’m not diabetic). The nausea, with or without migraines, was awful. My heart would race at all hours of the day and night and my head felt weird. It would wake me from a sound sleep. Sometimes my normally low BP would shoot up also. Anxiety, fatigue, and weakness were out of hand. I was steadily losing weight without trying at all. ER doctors tried to tell me it was “just” anxiety/panic attacks. I kept careful notes of all strange episodes, including glucose level and BP. It got so bad I could hardly function and I have 2 teenagers and a husband to care for. Finally my doctor figured out that I was having adrenaline surges caused by autonomic dysfunction, also called dysautonomia. My sympathetic nervous system–fight or flight–was out of whack. First the doctor put me on 25 mg. Toprol to control the rapid heartbeat. After getting stabilized on that, the doctor put me on 60 mg. Cymbalta because it acts on the sympathetic nervous system. Thankfully, he started me on 15 mg. and had me work up to 60 mg. It made me feel very sick the first few days. After being on the full dose of Cymbalta for a couple weeks, I began to feel like myself again. I still had some episodes of my pulse being right around 100, but adding Hawthorn Berry Extract has taken care of that. If your bloodwork comes back negative, please explore the possibility of dysautonomia. About.com has a good article about it.

  2. Wisdom says:

    That’s a bummer that being on the computer makes you feel so bad…

  3. Rain Gem says:

    I hope it’s just some sort of seasonal thing and not those serious things you said that I didn’t understand… Hang in there 🙂

  4. deborah says:

    Oh, I feel for you. pray for you. sympathize. If you can, have Hart get you a GOOD qint of wonton soup. Trust me here, It needs to be from a good chinese, real chinese restaurant, though. Not the take-out, fast-food stuff. The real thing. Hope you feel well soon.

  5. Megan Oltman says:

    Oh, Kerrie, you have been having a rough time! I hope this helps clear things up.
    – Megan

  6. Ellen says:

    Boy, do I hear you! I wish I could count the number of times I have hinted that many people with migraine should get their endocrine system checked out, especially thyroid. There is a huge number of thyroid patients with migraine. Migraine is a known symptom of thyroid disease that isn’t often discussed. Most people link it with low thyroid. The fact is, in real life, hypERthyroid and hypOthyroid share almost identical symptoms. Unfortunately, many docs don’t do the correct testing, and the labs don’t use the current ranges. Usually anything found to be within “normal” range will be ignored until it is too late. If you do an online search of Migraine Autoimmune, or even break up the different autoimmune disorders and add migraine to the search, you’ll be amazed at how many of them include migraine or headache as a symptom of the disease.

    My “low thyroid headaches” are migraine and do not usually start with an aura. The prodromes are very profound however and it is difficult to tell where one migraine attack starts and another begins. My hypERthyroid headaches are migraine with aura. Brilliant, vibrant, severe aura. The attacks are usually of shorter duration (hours vs days) and the auras come one after another after another. There is also something called Encephalopathy ( graves induced, or hashimoto’s) that is caused by autoimmune thyroid disease.

    Yes, thyroid is a potent hormone with far reaching consequences to the brain and body.

    I found that adding T3 therapy to my T4 helped my headaches, so long as my FT4 levels stay consistently on the mid to high side of normal. Keeping my TSH suppressed is important, but anything below 1 and I risk having hypER headaches.

    Thyroid influences each and every cell in our bodies. This also includes reproductive hormones, which when imbalanced we also know causes migraine. Cortisol imbalances are a result of any stress on the body, especially thyroid issues, and this also causes migraines in some people. It also tends to cause sleep problems, another migraine trigger for many.

    The pituitary gland in the bottom of the middle of the brain is the thermostat to the thyroid. It is the gland controller. Imbalances in this gland can cause endocrine imbalances across the board.

    One must also look at the effect altered thyroid levels have on the rest of the body, which can also result in migraine triggers. Imbalances in minerals such as magnesium, vitamins such as those in the classification of B vitamins (esp B2, B6 and B12 (which is anti-inflammatory), insulin imbalances, and blood fat and homocysteine levels as well as heart valve symptoms all can trigger migraine in the right person.

    Endocrine issues are big migraine triggers and should be on the first line of defense when doing initial screening tests for migraine. It should also be the first line of defense for anyone with migraine, since levels can fluctuate and be difficult to find in a single lab. Frequent retesting might also be warranted, especially in the light of the fact that the normal ranges have recently been severely tightened. Those that thought they were fine, may indeed have been mis-diagnosed because the doctor or lab didn’t know the ranges had been changed.

    Be sure to get and keep copies of all your labs and tests so you can keep tabs on your progress. This is key to getting good care when you have thyroid issues.

    Good luck with your thyroid journey! Hopefully once you get that fairly balanced, your migraine headaches might not be as much of a problem. 🙂 We can hope…

    Ellen

    • Charity says:

      I’m so sorry you’re going through all this, but thanks for all the info. You have me more information than all 3 of the ER docs!!

  7. Sue says:

    Sorry you’re having such a rough time Kerrie.

  8. Amy says:

    Has anyone here had open heart surgery? My daughter had this surgery at age 3, and has suffered from migraines since then. No one has been able to put together this puzzle for me. The troubling part is that she is now 12, and has missed about 70 days of school this year.

    Any thoughts?

  9. Alex says:

    To Amy- children/adults with a PFO, or patent foramen ovaleults (which is a heart valve) often experience migraines. You may want to get your daughter checked out for that!

    To Kerrie- Be sure to get tested for hashimoto’s as you will eventually go hypothyroid b/c of it. Also make sure the doctor tests your free T3 levels and I highly recommend Armour:)

  10. Cristina O says:

    Hi, I am posting this at 4:00 am since I have not been able to sleep for more than 1 hour due to nausea and headache. This all started about 3 months ago with severe HA during some stressfull times. I went to ER and had an MRI of my brain that showed some benign changes. I am 41 years old. I just repeted the MRI this week and nothing new. I was thinking some form of cancer until I found this post. I think is my thyroid even if TSH and T4 were normal. I had irradiation as a child over the neck for a congenital hemangioma. I am making an appointment with a endocrinologist in a few hours!

  11. Steve says:

    I just suffered a severe pain at the back of my neck and spreads at the central junction of my two eyebrows. I was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism but recent tests showed normal values both for T3 and T4. That’s why I stop drinking med for hyper. But this severe migraine pain comes out unexpectedly when my blood pressure was just 130/90 and my heart beat 60/min. I took catapres 75ug for this also good for migraines as what I’d read as well as the high bp. I also took prednisone for I do have allergy to some environmental factors like smoke but this morning I ate canned spicy tuna fish and it may be the cause of this allergy (leading to this headache). Until now I still have some pain but tolerable. I also took mefenamic acid.

  12. Charity says:

    Almost a month ago I was diagnosed with hypERthyroidism. This came to life as I went to the ER because my heart had been racing out of control (172 bpm after taking a shower) and I felt something was get wrong with my heart. It was gradually getting worse by the day and I had been concerned for the last 3 months. I just thought I need to take it easy.

    I have since been back to the ER twice because of my heart. Although the first doc gave me Propranolol 10mg 2x daily, it didn’t seem to be working anymore after 2 weeks. EKG showed my heart was ok, just beating too fast (120 laying still for more than 5 minutes). My prescription was upped to 20mg 3 times a day. Although I took the medicine on time, yesterday evening I walked to the gas station (maybe 200 yards away). I had to stop outside and let my heart rest. It was at (168 bpm). When I went inside I started to feel a squeezing sensation in my heart. I started sweating and the pain started going to my left arm. The pain would come and go; similar to labor contractions. I was thinking I just need to stop moving, sit down, and let my heart calm down. After 20 minutes of this, I decided to go to the ER. EKG again said my heart had a normal rhythm but was beating too fast. I was told that Propranolol just masks the symptoms and I should be on one or two different medications. After he told me this he said I would be getting a chest X-ray and going upstairs. After a four hour wait with no one calling me for anything and the pain had subsided, I decided to go home.
    Very horrific feeling and I’m worried that I may have a heart attack soon. I’m 38 with 4 teenagers. My 1 daughter is going to graduate this year and I would hate to not be there for her and my younger 2 who are graduating in the next 3 years.

    I’ll post again, I have no insurance so getting my thyroid under control has been proving quite difficult. I wish the best for everyone with thyroid problem associated with heart problems. I really do.

    Stay strong!!

    • Charity says:

      Oh, migraines with aura (I’ve had about 30 since I was 18. Lost about 50lbs in 3 months. Night sweats (hot). My hair is getting more coarse. My periods for the last 7 months have been 3 days with the exception of the last 2 months which were 1 day. Insomnia, diarrhea, fatigue, light-headedness, shortness of breath, and lack of sexual desire are most of my symptoms.

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