Are Diabetics at an Increased Risk for Thyroid Disease?

February 14, 20170

Living in the diabetic capital of the world, we are well aware of some of the common dangers of this disease. High blood sugar levels over time can lead to heart problem, nerve problems and even kidney damage. But did you know that people with diabetes, especially Type 1 are at an added risk for thyroid disorder too? While almost 7% of general population is said to be affected by some kind of thyroid disease, this value is over 10% for people with diabetes.

Diabetes and Thyroid Disease

Just like diabetes is a hormonal condition caused by insufficient levels of the insulin hormone, thyroid disease is caused by abnormal levels of the thyroid hormone. Keep in mind that the thyroid gland is responsible for regulating several important processes such as metabolism, growth, energy conversion and development. An imbalance in thyroid hormones can lead to several health problems including blood glucose.

Now while diabetes does not directly cause thyroid disease, it does increase its risk factor. In cases where diabetes is not properly managed, especially Type 1 diabetes, it can lead to an autoimmune disorder which in turn leads to thyroid disease. In an autoimmune disease, the body is attacked by its own immunesystem making it more susceptible to other autoimmune disorders.

Obesity or excess weight gain is another factor that is found common with diabetes and hypothyroidism. For people with diabetes maintaining a healthy weight is crucial not only for effective diabetic treatment but also to eliminate other diseases.

There are two forms of thyroid disorders – hypothyroidism (a thyroid disease where thyroid hormones are low) and hyperthyroidism (where thyroid hormones are produced in excess).

Diabetes and hypothyroidism

In hypothyroidism, the thyroid hormones are insufficient which lower the metabolism rate. This can cause insulin to be processed at a slower rate hence insulin remains in the blood stream for a longer duration which may lead to low blood sugar. As hypothyroidism affects the way in which energy/ insulin is processed, it may lead to changes in blood glucose levels. Further, hypothyroidism increases the risk for high cholesterol levels which in combination with diabetescan significantly increase the risk for heart problems.

Further, fatigue and weight gain is a common symptom of hypothyroidism. This in turn may worsen diabetes. People with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are at an increased risk for hypothyroidism and should monitor their thyroid levels regularly.

Diabetes and hypothyroidism

Hyperthyroidism is a condition where thyroid hormones are produced in excess. In people with diabetes, this condition may lead to elevated blood sugar levels which can worsen diabetes treatment. High levels of thyroid hormone lead to increased glucose levels in the liver and this increased insulin resistance. Further, hyperthyroidism may lead to rapid heartbeat and palpitations which in combination with diabetes can place additional stress on the heart.

Thus we see that while thyroid disorders don’t impact blood glucose levels directly, their impact on the body’s metabolism and energy can alter blood sugar levels and impact diabetes. To prevent or control thyroid disease it is essential to monitor thyroid hormone levels regularly. A simple blood test for TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) can check if your thyroid levels are normal.

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