Type 1 + Your Thyroid

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Your pancreas and your thyroid have a roommate/landlord-like relationship with your body: both affect their surroundings while taking up residence in your body, both are critical players in your endocrine system, and when they don’t function properly, they can cause problems.

Type 1 + Your Thyroid

Thyroid disorders and Type 1 diabetes are both autoimmune issues. Different antibodies cause both conditions. Although there is no proof that one causes the other, research shows that the number of people with diabetes who have an autoimmune thyroid disorder might be as high as 30 percent, and there may be genetic links as well. Women are proven to be at higher risk than men [6].

Autoimmune diseases often occur together: people who have both celiac disease (another autoimmune condition that also occurs in people with Type 1) and Type 1 diabetes are more likely to have an autoimmune thyroid disorder [2] [3].

What does the thyroid do?

Your thyroid gland produces hormones that help regulate your body’s metabolism. It controls your body’s temperature levels, heartbeat, brain and body growth, and more. Iodine is also a critical component of T3 and T4, the thyroid’s major hormones [4].

Hypothyroidism

That’s right — your favorite prefixes, hypo- and hyper-, apply to your thyroid’s functionality as well as your blood sugar levels. Lack of iodine can result in hypothyroidism. Hashimoto’s disease is the most common manifestation of an underactive thyroid. This is seen in the majority of thyroid problems in people with Type 1. Symptoms of hypothyroidism can include:

  • Presence of a goiter (enlarged thyroid)
  • Lack of energy
  • Feeling cold
  • Hair loss
  • Sleepiness
  • Slow pulse

Hyperthyroidism

Graves’ disease is the result of an overactive thyroid and occurs far less frequently in people with Type 1. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism can include:

  • Presence of a goiter (enlarged thyroid)
  • Lack of focus
  • Feeling warm
  • Mood changes
  • Fast pulse

There are other diseases caused by hyperthyroidism as well. A blood test and further analysis by an endocrinologist can determine the exact cause of the issue. [2]

How do autoimmune thyroid disorders impact Type 1?

Dr. Marina Basina, a Stanford endocrinologist, who sits on Beyond Type 1’s Science Advisory Council, helps explain the effects of hypo- and hyperthyroidism on Type 1:

Hypothyroidism:

  • Mild hypothyroidism has no significant effect, but significant hypothyroidism and overtreatment with thyroid medication (which causes iatrogenic/medication-induced hyperthyroidism) will increase insulin resistance and insulin requirements.

Hyperthyroidism:

  • Graves’ disease and hyperthyroidism increases insulin resistance and insulin requirements in the hyperthyroid phase of the illness.
  • Insulin requirements go down significantly (higher risk of lows) after correction of hyperthyroidism.

Screening and Treatment

Hormones produced by the thyroid are necessary, especially for growing children. There is debate about whether thyroid screening should be standard procedure for people who have Type 1 diabetes and celiac disease. [1]

Often, a pill can solve autoimmune thyroid problems. Since the symptoms can be confused with other issues, talk with your doctor if you think you might be experiencing an autoimmune thyroid disorder at either end of the spectrum. [6]


Learn about Other Forms of Diabetes.