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Heavy Bleeding can be a symptom of Hypothyroidism

Then one day I read about the connection between heavy menstrual bleeding and low thyroid, and it was like a light bulb went on in my head. For some reason all the puzzle pieces suddenly fit!

Twenty years ago I nearly lost my uterus. I suffered for many years with heavy menstrual flows and debilitating fatigue, among other things, because the doctors in my life ignored some pretty basic symptoms of hypothyroidism (low thyroid condition).

In fact many doctors do not seem to recognize that heavy, painful and/or irregular menstrual periods are commonly caused by hypothyroidism. This is really shocking, when you realize that the first paper on this subject was published in 1899. This connection has also been printed in gynecological textbooks. This was taught in med school!

I am sharing my story because many women today, otherwise healthy, are still encouraged by doctors to get hysterectomies as "a last resort" for heavy bleeding. While dysfunctional bleeding could indeed indicate something quite serious, the fact is its also a symptom for hypothyroidism. This symptom is part of a larger picture that, when seen with other specific signs, should alert the doctor to at least consider the possibility of hypothyroidism, and yet it is often disregarded. It certainly was in my situation.

Sometime around age 35, I began to occasionally experience extremely heavy menstrual cycles with large blood clots and painful cramps. There were headaches, too, and lots of fatigue. I have heard these periods described as PFH (Periods From Hell). There were times when I could not leave the house during a PFH. More often than not, I'd have to plan my life around my periods whenever possible.

The PFHs continued on and off for several more years. At first, my gynecologist prescribed Provera to stop the bleeding. Provera worked great whenever I took it, and I was thrilled. Of course, my doctor didn't alert me that I'd be spotting the whole rest of any month I took the pills, which was scary at first. But even when I realized I'd be spotting for weeks, I didn't care because anything was better than living with the heavy bleeding, painful cramps, headaches, and fatigue that accompanied each period.

Sometimes I would go through phases of no PFHs, so I'd think they might be over for good, but just as suddenly, they would be back. Eventually, it got to the point I was asking for the Provera pills too often I guess, because one day my frustrated gyn suggested hysterectomy was my only alternative. I really respected this man and came very close to agreeing to the procedure, but something told me to get a second opinion. Fortunately, that doctor was able to treat me without resorting to a hysterectomy.

Things were actually fine for a while. But at about age 42, my health once again began to change dramatically. My periods became very irregular, and I also began to experience hot flashes, increased fatigue and hair loss. I thought it might be perimenopause, so I asked my gyn if I could have something to relieve the hot flashes. But he said no. He just didn't believe I could be perimenopausal. "Too young," he said. This same doctor—who I believed saved me from a hysterectomy—was now dismissing me. I felt crazy and was devastated by his attitude.

After switching GYNs once again, I was able to get some relief with hormone replacement therapy (HRT). However, I was disappointed to find that I still didn't feel well. Something was very wrong. The HRT did help the hot flashes. It also regulated my periods. Yet I continued to experience the hair loss, fatigue and headaches, plus new symptoms were beginning to appear—dizziness, body aches, joint pain, brain fog, cold hands and feet, difficulty swallowing, depression, loss of libido and more. Whatever was going on, it was getting gradually worse.

I decided to do some research, and in only a short time I discovered that my symptoms clearly fit the pattern for hypothyroidism. I read that many of the same symptoms could fit perimenopause as well. That confused me until I also read that perimenopause can provoke a long-standing untreated thyroid condition to trigger even more symptoms. So it seemed logical to wonder, could this be me? Could I be hypothyroid? My gyn didn't think so.

Nor did any of the other 5 doctors I saw within the next 3 years. Not one of these doctors believed I had a thyroid problem, despite the fact I complained of at least 12 low-thyroid symptoms, several of which were classic hypothyroid symptoms and had nothing to do with perimenopause (low body temperature and difficulty swallowing, to name two). My "normal" blood tests defined the situation to these doctors, and that was that. After all that time and effort, I still had no diagnosis. And I still felt lousy! So how could I be "normal?" I couldn't understand why no one could help me.

Discouraged, I didn't seek any more medical help for years after that. I just learned to live with the symptoms, which wasn't easy. I had no more periods since, by that time, I was well into menopause, but I still dealt with the other symptoms. My hands and feet often felt so cold they "burned," and I had to wear socks to bed even in summer months. The fatigue, especially, often meant being homebound.

Then one day I read about the connection between heavy menstrual bleeding and low thyroid, and it was like a light bulb went on in my head. For some reason all the puzzle pieces suddenly fit! This discovery was a turning point which gave me the confidence to believe that, in spite of what I'd been told by the doctors, well of course this could be me. I could have hypothyroidism! Which meant there might be relief from symptoms which had gone unabated all these years.

With renewed conviction, I was able to find a wonderfully supportive doctor who was experienced in thyroid care. After all I'd been through, it was almost overwhelming to meet a doctor who actually listened respectfully to my story and who seemed to understand exactly what was going on with me. He explained that "normal" doesn't always mean healthy and that labs are not the whole story. He explained how current blood tests miss the hypothyroid diagnosis almost as often as they detect it. I left his office with a prescription for Armour thyroid and hope for the future. After being on the medication just a short time, I began to notice positive changes. Now, 3 years later, at age 55, I feel better than I have in a very long time. I feel healthy!

Careybee
Shawnee, KS.

 

For more information:

Excellent website covering all thyroid conditions and disease: http://www.thyroid.about.com/

Books which mention menstrual irregularities as a symptom of low thyroid and other thyroid conditions:

  • "Solved, The Riddle of Illness," by Stephen Langer, MD
  • "Hypothyroidism, The Unsuspected Illness," by Broda Barnes, MD
  • "Living Well With Hypothyroidism," by Mary Shomon
  • "Screaming to be Heard, Hormonal Connections Women Suspect—and Doctors Ignore" by Elizabeth Lee Vliet, MD

All books are available at Amazon.com logo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Updated  09/29/2010