You and Your Thyroid

Why every person with diabetes should get it examined

By Daniel TrecrociDaniel Trecroci

Having diabetes puts a lot of things on your plate. Between the daily blood-glucose tests and insulin injections, it is understandable if we don't stop and wonder about the health of our thyroid gland.

Having diabetes, however, is a very good reason to think about your thyroid gland — the organ located in the lower front part of the neck. The thyroid is part of the endocrine system that releases thyroid hormone to control how quickly the body burns energy. Thyroid hormone also helps to maintain your cardiovascular system and central nervous system. When too much thyroid hormone is released, you burn energy at a faster rate (hyperthyroidism). When too little thyroid hormone is released, energy is burned a slower rate (hypothyroidism).

Thyroid Disorders More Common in People with Diabetes

According to an article authored by Patricia Wu, MD, FACE, FRCP in the Winter 2000 issue of Clinical Diabetes, thyroid disorders are more common in people with diabetes—women in particular — because, "… patients with one organ-specific autoimmune disease are at risk of developing other autoimmune disorders."

Wu adds that hyperthyroidism is typically associated with worsening blood glucose control and increased insulin requirements.

According to an article in Diabetes Spectrum (15:140-142, 2002), it was cited that the prevalence of thyroid disease in people with type 1 diabetes is 31.4 percent. In type 2s, there is about a 6.8 percent prevalence.

The Importance of Thyroid Testing

Lawrence C. Wood, MD, FACP, is the medical director for the American Thyroid Association. In an interview with dLife, he states the importance of having your thyroid tested at least once a year if you have diabetes. When a person with diabetes has their thyroid function tested, Dr. Wood says that they should be sure to have their doctor measure thyroid hormone thyroxine (T4) as well as Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), which is the pituitary hormone that controls thyroid function

"TSH is the more sensitive test, and a low TSH indicates hyperthyroidism while a high TSH indicates hypothyroidism," says Wood.

He adds that they also need a test for Anti Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies (Anti TPO antibodies) about once a year.

"The antibodies tell whether a patient has a predisposition to thyroid dysfunction, and, if positive, they indicate a need to watch thyroid function more carefully — perhaps twice-a-year checks of the T4 and TSH."

Wood adds that thyroid testing is especially important for women who are pregnant, because unrecognized hypothyroidism can cause stillbirth, premature delivery, hypertension in the mother at the time of delivery, and a possible IQ deficit in the baby.

"They also need repeat thyroid testing after the pregnancy, for this is a common time for thyroid antibodies to either stimulate or damage the thyroid."

Hyperthyroidism Symptoms

Pounding heart
Quick pulse
Increased sweating
Weight loss despite normal or increased appetite
Shortness of breath when exercising
Muscle weakness or tremors
Trouble concentrating
Change in menstrual periods
Thick skin on the knees, elbows, and shins

Hypothyroidism Symptoms

Feeling of being cold even when others feel warm
Weight gain unrelated to increase in eating
Low blood pressure
Slow pulse

Diabetes Spectrum 15:140-142, 2002

Read Daniel Trecroci's bio.

Read more of Daniel Trecroci's columns.

NOTE: The information is not intended to be a replacement or substitute for consultation with a qualified medical professional or for professional medical advice related to diabetes or another medical condition. Please contact your physician or medical professional with any questions and concerns about your medical condition.


Last Modified Date: July 10, 2013

All content on is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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by Brenda Bell
Many people say that depression is a side effect or complication of diabetes. Without discounting the association of the psychological condition with the physical one, I'm not convinced that our high and/or unstable glucose levels are directly responsible for that change in our mental state. My belief is that the unrelenting need for self-care, for following the sort of care schedules that can drive licensed, professional caregivers crazy, is what overwhelms us...
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