There is growing evidence that having diabetes puts you at higher risk of thyroid dysfunction.1 Both diabetes and thyroid issues involve the release of hormones from the pancreas, affecting how food is processed and stored by cells and how quickly glucose is released into the bloodstream after a meal.
In this article, we take a look at the current research about diabetes and thyroid disorders and the importance of seeking treatment.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects how the body produces or reacts to insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps the body use or store sugar. When the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin, or the body can’t normally react to insulin, sugar builds up in the blood instead of being broken down for energy. This process can lead to many long-term effects, including heart disease, kidney failure, blindness, and amputations, and short-term effects, like dehydration and fainting due to low blood sugar levels.
- Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition where the immune system attacks cells in the pancreas which produce insulin. Over 1.4 million Americans have type 1 diabetes, and their bodies cannot produce any insulin independently.
- Type 2 diabetes is caused by poor diet, obesity, not getting regular exercise, high cholesterol, and family history, so it is preventable to some degree through lifestyle changes.
37.3 million Americans—about 1 in 10—have diabetes. About 1 in 5 people with diabetes don’t know they have it. This condition can be difficult to diagnose if you do not already suspect something is wrong. Symptoms associated with type 2 diabetes are fatigue, weight loss, increased thirst and urination, frequent infections, and blurry vision, among others, but these symptoms may also indicate other conditions.
There are three common ways to diagnose diabetes:
- A fasting glucose test (a finger prick)
- An oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT)
- An HbA1c test (blood sample)
What are thyroid disorders?
The thyroid is a small gland in your neck that produces hormones critical for many body processes, including normal growth and development, metabolism, and heart rate. Problems with the thyroid can cause either hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.
Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland doesn’t make enough hormones, or the body’s immune system destroys the hormone-producing cells. Left untreated, hypothyroidism can lead to chronic health problems such as heart disease, infertility, and depression.
Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland makes too many hormones. Left untreated, it can cause anxiety, heart attack, insomnia, and weight loss, among other symptoms.
What is the link between diabetes and thyroid disorders?
According to research studies, people with diabetes have a higher risk of developing a thyroid disorder than those without diabetes.2 Factors such as genetics, age, sex, and obesity can further increase this risk.
Links between diabetes and thyroid disorders can be found in several ways:
- Thyroid and blood sugar – Excess thyroid hormone increases lipolysis, insulin, and glucagon secretion, which deteriorates glucose metabolism, resulting in glucose intolerance and diabetes.
- Thyroid dysfunction and insulin resistance – As thyroid hormones are essential for carbohydrate metabolism, thyroid dysfunction can impact insulin production and may lead to type 2 diabetes.
- Autoimmune diseases – There is a close association between type 1 diabetes and autoimmune-induced thyroid dysfunction (AITD),3 with both conditions having the same genetic background.
It is recommended that individuals at high risk test routinely to catch any developing issues before they cause long-term issues. In addition, it is always recommended that you talk to your doctor about any changes in your symptoms.
What does treatment look like if you have diabetes and a thyroid disorder?
Diabetes is a chronic disease that can usually be managed by taking medication, diet and exercise changes, monitoring your blood sugar levels, and receiving regular check-ups. If you are experiencing high blood sugar levels, your doctor will likely prescribe medication to help bring them down.
Self-care plans for those with diabetes include:
- Managing blood pressure and cholesterol
- Not smoking or quitting if a person does smoke
- Changing your diet per your doctor’s recommendation
- Getting regular exercise
- Taking medication, such as insulin
- Checking glucose levels
- Working closely with a diabetes healthcare team
- Losing weight
When diabetes is paired with an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) or overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism), your doctor will need to prescribe treatment for the specific thyroid issue.
These treatments may include:
- Antithyroid drugs
- Radioactive iodine
If you believe you are at risk for one of these conditions but haven’t been tested, talk with your doctor about testing today. Diabetes increases your risk for several health complications, including heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney failure, and nerve damage. It’s also important to remember that hypothyroidism can lead to heart problems such as angina pectoris and atherosclerosis, while hyperthyroidism can lead to sudden cardiac death or cardiomyopathy.
What should I do if I think I have either diabetes, a thyroid disorder, or both?
If you have undiagnosed diabetes, you may feel fatigued without knowing why. Hypothyroidism can cause fatigue because your body is simply not getting enough energy to function properly. Hyperthyroidism, on the other hand, speeds up your metabolism, making it difficult for you to gain weight but resulting in a great deal of energy.
If you think you might have either diabetes or a thyroid disorder, the first step is to get tested. Testing is usually done at a hospital or clinic. Although you can now obtain DIY test kits, these options are not a replacement for a professionally administered test. Your doctor will need the results of a comprehensive lab test to make a diagnosis or prescribe treatment.
If you have a busy schedule and are having trouble making time to visit a clinic, you can opt for concierge medical services. These services send a licensed medical professional to your home to administer testing, interpret your results, and recommend a course of treatment.
Diabetes and thyroid issues are serious conditions that can lead to long-term health consequences if left untreated. Testing for individuals at high risk for these conditions is crucial so they can get the appropriate treatment and prevent long-term health issues.
Consider contacting a concierge service to get tested from the comfort of your own home. They will perform all necessary lab tests in just one visit. Once your results are in, your doctor will be able to establish the next steps for anyone that has been diagnosed with either condition.
Lab Testing - Frequently Asked Questions
Schedule your at Home Thyroid Test in with Driphydration
Drip Hydration is a prominent medical company that provides thyroid testing in the comfort of your own home. It's a great method to avoid visiting the doctor's office while still determining if your thyroid is releasing the necessary quantity of hormones your body requires to function properly. Drip Hydration appointments may be scheduled over the phone or online, and it is a handy alternative to regular medical therapy.
It's easy to make an appointment, and once you do, a medical professional from our team will visit your home to collect samples for testing. The samples are brought to our laboratory, where we inspect, evaluate, and advise you on what to do next. You may obtain a thyroid blood test straight away by arranging an appointment with Drip Hydration right away!Learn More