Touch your neck, right above your collar-bone, and you’ll find a little gland called your thyroid. It only weighs an ounce, yet this thyroid’s hormones control your metabolism.
When those hormones are balanced, everything is fine. But if your thyroid makes just a little less or more than you need…it could cause havoc, both with how you function and the effectiveness of your AEDs.
Hypothyroidism – or an underactive thyroid – is the real baddy. It can result in fatigue, weight gain, constipation, fuzzy thinking, low blood pressure, fluid retention, depression, body pain, slow reflexes, and much more.
On the other hand, hyperthyroidism – an overactive thyroid — can result in a rapid metabolism and symptoms like: anxiety, insomnia, rapid weight loss, diarrhea, high heart rate, high blood pressure, eye sensitivity/bulging eyes, vision disturbances, and many other concerns.
Although any kind of hormone irregularity is cause for concern, endocrinologists, generally consider hypothyroidism the worse of the two.
Which leads us to the bad news…
In a new study, when researchers at the American Academy of Neurology called for hormone testing…
The team found that about 32% of epilepsy patients who were taking anti-epileptic drugs (both in mono or polytherapy) had thyroid hormone abnormalities.
The most relevant finding was in patients who were taking Depakote (Valproate) as a monotherapy.
Previous studied had shown that Depakote increased the levels of thyroid-stimulating hormones which, in turn, can lead to hyperthyroidism.
However, when recent research compared anti-epileptic drugs, they found that the following drugs actually encouraged hypothyroidism. (The no-no.) These drugs were:
Depakote – Valproate (61.5% greater incidence of hypothyroidism)
Tegretol – Carbamaepine (47.9% greater incidence of hypothyroidism)
Dilantin – Phenytoin (17% greater incidence of hypothyroidism)
Although both thyroid irregularities can be successfully treated, you have to know they exist, in order to alter the situation.
If you have hypothyroidism, researchers suggest large doses of selenium — a common over-the-counter supplement — to bring your thyroid levels back up. You can probably get enough selenium by taking a good multi-vitamin and mineral product. Just make sure you’re getting 200 mcg per day of selenium.
Hyperthyroidism is relatively rare and can be treated successfully with anti-thyroid drugs, prescribed by your doctor.
However, the bottom line is that thyroid illness is more common than you think. That’s why we need to be pro-active about thyroid testing. When you go to your internist, insist on running a full thyroid panel of T4, T3 and TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone). Most docs will only test your TSH and tell you everything is ducky if you don’t spell out the full panel requested.
(Believe me, I speak from experience.)
Also, please take the initiative to ask for your results and check them against the norms, before you decide to take any action. If you think you do have hypothyroidism, it’s as easy as taking selenium or a thyroid supplement. And if your testing shows you to have hyperthyroidism, it’s just a matter of taking an anti-thyroid medication. And in a little time, it will probably “fix” itself. But make sure of your results first!
Your thyroid might be the last thing on your mind. But please, if you’re on any kind of AED, ask your doctor to run a full thyroid test panel once a year. It could make a world of difference in how you feel.
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About the author
Phylis Feiner Johnson has been a professional copywriter for 30 years. She also spent 20 years with epilepsy. She writes from the heart to increase education, awareness and funding for epilepsy research. For further information, contact The Epilepsy Foundation of Eastern Pennsylvania at http://www.efepa.org/ and please make a contribution to become an advocate, too.