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Is It Allergies or a Thyroid Disorder?

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I was initially diagnosed with allergies, but a follow-up blood test showed signs of hypothyroidism.

Itchy, red, and watery eyes are often associated with allergies or hay fever, but they can also indicate problems with your thyroid.

Itchy, red, and watery eyes are often associated with allergies or hay fever, but they can also indicate problems with your thyroid.

I have spent months trying to find the answer to this question. Although I had some symptoms of an allergy or hay fever, they could have also indicated a troublesome thyroid gland. When I first went to my doctor, he assured me it was an allergy. I asked about possible issues with my thyroid, but he dismissed that idea. As time went on—and I kept on taking antihistamines and eye drops to no avail—various people kept suggesting thyroid problems. I eventually asked the nurse at my doctor's office to schedule a blood test for me.

The results suggested I had a borderline underactive thyroid. My doctor then suggested I take iodine supplements to prevent it becoming completely underactive. However, he still insisted that I did not have a thyroid problem and that my symptoms were still due to an allergy/hay fever.

What Is the Thyroid?

The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of your neck just below the larynx—pretty much at the base of the neck. It is a very important gland in the body that is responsible for regulating metabolism. The amount of thyroid hormone produced determines whether your metabolism is fast or slow. It is also involved in bone growth and muscle function as well as respiration, heart rate, mood regulation, and skin, hair, and nail health.

Symptoms of Overactive and Underactive Thyroids

Hypothyroidism (Underactive)Hyperthyroidism (Overactive)

Dry eyes (can trigger overproduction of tears)

Itchy, inflamed eyes

Blurred vision

Greasy skin

Dry hair, skin, and/or nails

Loss of muscle tone

Headaches and migraines

Frequent bowel movements

Joint pain and stiffness

Frequently hungry

Bloating and fluid retention

Shortness of breath

Constipation

Lump in throat when swallowing

Discomfort while swallowing

Racing heartbeat

Fatigue

Insomnia

Feeling cold

Aversion to heat

Forgetfulness

Increased sweating

Anxiety and depression

Anxiety

Low libido

Increased libido

Menstrual problems

Mood swings

Weight gain

Hair loss

Sluggish digestion

Tremors

Tingling or numbness in the hands and feet

Tendency to flush

Increased infections

As I have found from talking to others suffering from either of these conditions, it seems that some of the symptoms can be interchangeable, making it more difficult to diagnose. If you suspect you have a faulty thyroid, I suggest you ask for a blood test because this will let you know for sure. I was lucky that my thyroid hadn't completely bombed out and was still able to rectify things with an iodine supplement.

Whether blood tests indicate under or overactive thyroid function, there are interventions that can help normalize the problem. These treatments range from taking thyroxine or radioactive iodine to surgery.

My Initial Symptoms:

  • Puffy bags under my eyes
  • Watery, streaming eyes, especially on waking
  • Red eyes that sometimes felt gritty
  • Dry, frizzy hair

Over time, my eyes appeared to be protruding from my eye sockets. This is typically associated with an overactive thyroid, or hyperthyroidism. They felt uncomfortable and periodically ached. The puffiness under my eyes spread around my eyes as well. My cheeks also became puffy.

After much research on the internet and in books from the library, I am quite convinced my symptoms are all due to a low thyroid function—my test results were within the normal range but at the lowest end of that range.

Treatment

I stopped taking antihistamines, which obviously weren't helping since I did not have allergies. On the other hand, the iodine supplements suggested by my doctor have helped my eyes return to normal. My latest blood test results were also "more normal" than my first.

Foods To Avoid

Some foods are thought to be goitrogens, which means they inhibit the thyroid gland's ability to absorb iodine. These foods include:

  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage (especially if raw)
  • Peanuts and walnuts
  • Corn
  • Carrots
  • Pears
  • Soy products (e.g. tofu, soy milk, and soybeans)

Avoiding these foods can help in your quest to encourage better thyroid health.

Conclusion

I feel lucky to have finally found out what the problem was and to have a simple treatment plan. It seems to be a condition that can be easily overlooked when diagnosing because the symptoms are so similar to other conditions, such as allergies and menopause. Since the thyroid is important for many bodily functions, it is essential that it be eliminated as a possible source of worrying symptoms. I look so much better than I did with the puffy, staring eyes. I can now look in the mirror without freaking out at what I see.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Comments

tebo (author) from New Zealand on November 20, 2016:

Hi Arlene and thanks for reading. Sorry I haven't replied to your comment before this. I thought I had and just found out I hadn't! I'm glad you found my hub helpful and I hope you are managing to control your symptoms. My allergies continue to be a problem especially around hayfever season.

Arlene on October 19, 2016:

Wow Im so thankful that I had read your article I have struggling finding the cause of my sudden allergies,it started last year but now its gradually increases that I have to take anti allergy pills now the litlle muscle n joint pain im experiencing. For 10yrs I have been monitoring my thyroid gland thru ultrasound and lab test (T4 TSH T3 ) and they show normal until now. But I never take any thyroid supplements bec the test shows all normal. And now all of a sudden its showing all these symptoms, Im so glad I have tead about this allergy article of yours. Now I need more test to further understand what thyroid problem I have. Thanks alot.

tebo (author) from New Zealand on September 27, 2015:

Thanks Larry. Yes it certainly took time to convince my Doctor but my symptoms have all improved or gone since I have been on thyroid medication. Thanks for reading.

Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on September 27, 2015:

Wonderful read. I have had family members with thyroid conditions, so I know just how hard they can be to diagnose.

tebo (author) from New Zealand on July 30, 2013:

It does seem to fun in families, though no - one in my family seems to suffer from thyroid problems yet apart from me. Lets hope you keep the problem at bay. Thanks for the comments and sending angels. Lovely.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on July 30, 2013:

Both of my sisters are on meds for thyroid conditions and have been for years. Both had goiters removed as did my Momma.

To date I do not have a problem with mine and hope I never do.

Thanks for sharing this information.

Angels are on the way this morning.

tebo (author) from New Zealand on March 23, 2013:

My symptoms went away too after taking iodine for borderline underactive, but it was at the very lowest point of the range and I was experiencing symptoms. Hard to understand why Doctors do that although it does seem common. They tend to diagnose allergies or depression or menopause. Just as well we can figure it out for ourselves. Thanks for the comment.

Susan Hazelton from Sunny Florida on March 23, 2013:

Many doctors do seem to be reluctant to admit that it may be a thyroid problem. I wonder why. After I started taking medication for an underactive thyroid my symptoms seem to go away. He also keep saying it was allergies.

tebo (author) from New Zealand on March 22, 2013:

HI suzettenaples and thanks for your very nice comments. I still can't believe my Doctor wouldn't test me for thyroid when people who had no medical training could tell it was thyroid related. The thyroid is quite a responsible gland, but too easily overlooked due to similar symptoms. Thanks again.

Annie Messeri from Spain on March 22, 2013:

Hello bac2basics - I think your daughter can be sensitive to a thyroid medication - skin rashes

is a very commom side effect and about 275 people out of a 1000 will develop a skin rash.

Your spanish doctor is right anti histamines can cause an irregular heart beat, and even sudden death syndrome.

Suzette Walker from Taos, NM on March 22, 2013:

This is a very important article you have written on thyroid. I have had hyper and hypothyroid problems all my life. They are interchangeable as you point out. I also had to insist on a thyroid blood test as my doctor was dragging his feet. In the meantime I had significant weight gain. Talk about depressed! Now, my thyroid is leveled, but I do have to take a smidgen more synthroid above the normal range to feel normal. It is quite a balancing act and patients really have to keep on their doctors to look into this. Thank you for an enlightening and relevant article!

tebo (author) from New Zealand on March 22, 2013:

The thyroid unfortunately is a complicated gland when it comes to diagnosis. Too many other things have similar symptoms be they menopause or allergies. You just have to keep researching and asking for tests until you find the answer and alleviate the symptoms. Thanks for reading and commenting. I hope your daughter finds some relief soon.

Anne from Spain on March 22, 2013:

I was very interested to read this hub as my daughter suffers from under active thyroid and is taking medication for it, but she keeps breaking out in a very bad rash, it happens every day and comes and goes with no rhyme nor reason. She has been allergy tested but the rash is so hit and miss that I don´t think the things she is allergic to are actually what causes it and have asked her to insist that the doctor send her to a specialist or she gets a second opinion, i did this for 3 reasons, the first being that it´s uncomfortable and sometimes embarrassing for her, the second that on a blood test visit to see the nurse it broke out and the nurse was shocked and thought it may be her kidneys causing a problem, and the third was my doctor here in Spain refused to prescribe anti histamines because she said they are bad for the heart. I am going to share this hub and also send a link to my daughter. Thank you tebo for this great info :)

tebo (author) from New Zealand on March 13, 2013:

Hi divacratus and thanks for commenting. I agree it is scary, and he would have had me on antihistamines forever and a day with no improvement in symptoms. Doctors don't like us finding out stuff on the internet, but they leave us no options at times.

Kalpana Iyer from India on March 13, 2013:

I suspect I might be having thyroid problems too. But isn't it kind of scary to know the doc didn't prescribe the tests for you first? We learn a lot through the Internet which somehow makes us the better doctors :)

tebo (author) from New Zealand on February 04, 2013:

Hi DDE thanks for reading and your nice comments,glad you learned something.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on February 04, 2013:

Very interesting, thanks for sharing your experience, I learned more here about the thyroid gland. voted up!

tebo (author) from New Zealand on January 02, 2013:

Hi Nell. Yes things are pretty good now. I still have slight bags under my eyes that I never use to have, but the actual eyes are all good - not staring, no double vision and I don't feel weird when I turn my head like I use to!

Nell Rose from England on January 02, 2013:

Hope everything is better for you now? nell

tebo (author) from New Zealand on December 18, 2012:

Hi sarahshuihan. Yes that is the problem with this complaint, it is often over looked. In fact this is the reason I wrote this hub. Thanks for reading.

Sarah from USA on December 18, 2012:

I'm glad you wrote this hub to share with others, and hopefully your experience will help others. I think that there are so many common symptoms for a lot of different diseases that it might be hard to diagnose. That's probably why people recommend going to another doctor for a second opinion :)

tebo (author) from New Zealand on December 17, 2012:

It seems amazing to me now how my doctor could have dismissed it with the poppy eyes I had. Every man and his dog seems to know that's a thyroid symptom. Obviously its quite common to miss it from your comments. Thanks for reading.

Susan Hazelton from Sunny Florida on December 17, 2012:

My doctor also missed the thyroid disease. I finally had to change doctors to get a diagnosis. I am sorry it took so long for them to diagnosis you and glad that you have finally found relief. Up, useful, and interesting.

tebo (author) from New Zealand on December 02, 2012:

Wow that is amazing. I have read that if you have thyroid problems that your siblings etc may have the same problem. The thyroid tends to bomb out with some of us unfortunately. Thanks for reading and commenting.

moonlake from America on December 02, 2012:

One of our sons had his thyroid removed last month. Our daughter had hers removed in April. I went to the doctor a week ago for sickness and she said my thyroid was swelled. Strange for all three of us to have problems. Voted up on your hub.

tebo (author) from New Zealand on November 27, 2012:

Thanks kittythedreamer for your very nice comments. Glad you like it.

Kitty Fields from Summerland on November 27, 2012:

Very well written. Voted up and useful.

tebo (author) from New Zealand on November 22, 2012:

Hi rajan jolly. Thanks for reading and your nice comments. Yes I hope it is under check. Thanks again.

Hi rebeccamealey - thanks for reading. Glad you don't have thyroid problems, but allergies are a pain too aren't they?

Hi BlissfulWriter - That book sounds interesting and I shall look for it. I had TSH and Free T4 tests. My first tests were TSH - 9.1 and Free T4 - 16. The next test three months later TSH - 10.8 and Free T4 - 0.5. My latest test - another three months on TSH - 17.1 and Free T4 -.01. I think the .01 is a little low now, but most of my symptoms have faded. I have been thinking about seeing someone who knows what they are talking about instead of my GP to decide what to do next. Thanks for your helpful advice.

Hi cloverleaffarm - Thanks too for your advice. As I mentioned above I only had the TSH and Free T4 tests done. Now that my results are back to normal I have cut back the iodine, because I am worried I might go the other way, but I think I should find a specialist. Thanks for commenting.

Healing Herbalist from The Hamlet of Effingham on November 22, 2012:

If you do not have your "thyroid antibodies" checked, tests can still come out normal, or near normal. Be sure to have your doctor check for these. If he is only testing the T3 and T4, he is missing out on one key illness....Hashimoto's, which is an auto immune disorder. Test will show normal, unless you have the antibodies test done. Be Well!

BlissfulWriter on November 21, 2012:

You should read the book "Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? When My Lab Tests Are Normal" by Datis Kharrazian. 80% of all thyroid disorders are autoimmune in nature. So you should seek out someone that specialize in that area rather than a primary care physician that is just going to prescribe iodine. Sometime iodine supplements can make the situation worst and sometimes it can make it better. One can not tell unless one does more in-depth testing interpreted by a specialize. You can not tell with just one blood test. There are a variety of test that reveals different things. Some test are TSH, Total T4, Free T4, Free Thyroxine, Free T3, Reverse T3. And test for Thyroid Antibodies to rule out or confirm autoimmune condition.

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on November 21, 2012:

This is very timely and helpful as I am blubbering with allergies. I am so glad that I recently had blood work done to rule out thyroid problems. Helpful and useful!

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on November 21, 2012:

Very useful and interesting hub and thanks for sharing your observations . Glad your throid condition is under check.

Voted up/useful and shared.

tebo (author) from New Zealand on October 27, 2012:

Hi Nell, thanks for reading. Its fairly common isn't it - thyroid malfunction. I was a bit concerned it was Graves disease, but I don't think it is - I think that's more at the over active end. My eyes don't protrude any more or have that staring look. I think once you've got Graves disease it can only be fixed with surgery, but I could be wrong. BUT I did look like I had it, that' s for sure.

Nell Rose from England on October 27, 2012:

Hi tebo, I feel for you, I wrote about my thyroid too, and what a nightmare it is. It does sound as though you have Graves Disease, which is an imbalance of the thyroid. This means it's a bit like a seesaw, it can go too high, then too low and then back up again. I know. I am glad you sorted it out, and it does seem to me that Dr.s these days no nothing, a doctor of mine gave me tablets for a really high thyroid, and I ended up in hospital with really bad mialgia, pain in my legs, arms back etc, in fact I was literally screaming in agony, it was like a car crash victim without help. I had to read a book, diagnose myself and ask the doc for different tablets which did in fact work then! great hub, and so helpful to others going through this, and yes I remember the swollen eyelids and under eyes too. nell

tebo (author) from New Zealand on October 26, 2012:

Hi Jamie - That's great. I am going to have another blood test soon and will let you know how my levels are going with the iodine.

Jamie Brock from Texas on October 26, 2012:

THANK YOU for this valuable information, especially about the foods that interfere with thyroid function.. I honestly had NO idea. I'm going to see if I can find a good Iodine supplement as well :)

tebo (author) from New Zealand on October 25, 2012:

Hi Jamie - my doctor kept saying I must stress you do not have hypothyroidism, but we will put you on iodine to prevent it becoming under active. Iodine increases metabolism. My mothers doctor told me to have a thyroid test when he saw my eyes - His wife tests within the range, but has all the symptoms - she takes iodine and loves it. Broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage should be limited especially raw as they interfere with thyroid function. As should peanuts, soy products like tofu pretty much all the things I was eating. Good luck with sorting things out. I have talked to the chemist about taking iodine and he said the low dose I take is very safe - I take 150 mcg per day _ the recommended daily allowance. Thanks for reading.

Jamie Brock from Texas on October 25, 2012:

Very, very interesting.. thank you for sharing. I have just about all the symptoms above that you listed for hypothyroid... and last 3 tests have tested at very low end of normal yet the doc refuses to acknowledge there is a problem. I suspected I had a problem after changing my eating habits drastically over a period of a month and only lost about 2 lbs- in a MONTH. It's crazy.. I hope to find a good doctor at some point to get to the bottom of it. Wonderful hub, thank you for sharing your experience.

tebo (author) from New Zealand on October 22, 2012:

Hi Hyphenbird. Thanks for your comments. Yes I thought it was important for people to be aware of thyroid symptoms so they don't end up going down the wrong road of treatment like I did.

tebo (author) from New Zealand on October 22, 2012:

Hi CyberShelley. Thanks for reading my hub and commenting. Glad to hear all is well with your thyroid.

Brenda Barnes from America-Broken But Still Beautiful on October 22, 2012:

Thanks for sharing your personal story. I am glad you are doing better now. Thankfully I do not have thyroid issues. It is good to have this information though so it can be passed on to others. You did well explaining it.

Shelley Watson on October 21, 2012:

Hello, Thank you for writing this very interesting hub, it has helped me decide I don't actually have an under active thyroid. Glad you joined Hubpages and look forward to reading more from you! Voted Up, interesting and useful

tebo (author) from New Zealand on October 20, 2012:

Hi Conservative Lady and thanks for your comments. That is why thyroid so often gets overlooked. In my case my protruding, staring eyes should have been the clue. Some Doctors don't like you suggesting a diagnosis. My eyes still stream first thing in the morning, but the puffiness and staring are so much better. Hope you manage to control some of your symptoms. Thanks for reading.

Sheila from Surprise Arizona - formerly resided in Washington State on October 19, 2012:

Very interesting and thorough review of thyroid conditions. I am glad you have found relief from your symptoms. I too have many of those symptoms but mine truly are related to allergies. I wish you continued good health.

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