About one-third of type 1 diabetics have thyroid disease. Studies suggest a tendency for diabetes and thyroid disease to co-occur in patients: Diabetes and thyroid disease both affect the body's endocrine system, which regulates metabolism.
Thyroid gland malfunction is typically categorized as hypothyroidism, which occurs when the thyroid gland produces less thyroid hormone than the body requires, or hyperthyroidism, which occurs when the thyroid gland produces excess levels of thyroid hormone.
Type 1 diabetes and thyroid disease are auto-immune disorders. Auto-immune disorders occur when the body's immune system attacks the body instead of defending it from disease and infection. Patients suffering with auto-immune disorder are likely to have more than one type. For example, a patient may have Addison's disease and type 1 diabetes, or a type 1 diabetic may also have rheumatoid arthritis.
The link between type 2 diabetes and thyroid disease is less conclusive, but both conditions are associated with aging, so co-occurrences of type 2 diabetes and thyroid disease can be expected.
Thyroid Disease, Insulin, and Blood Glucose Levels
The pituitary gland regulates production of thyroid hormone by sending thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) to the thyroid gland. If the thyroid gland isn't producing enough thyroid hormone, the pituitary sends more TSH to the thyroid gland. When the thyroid gland is over active, the pituitary gland reduces the amount of TSH sent.
Hypothyroidism occurs when the body produces too little thyroid hormone; this condition can also cause type 1 diabetics' need for insulin therapy to decrease. Patients with hypothyroidism are treated with replacement thyroid hormones and receive TSH tests annually after the correct dosing for thyroid hormone replacement is determined. As with type 1 diabetic patients depending on insulin therapy, hypothyroid patients must take thyroid hormone replacement therapy for their entire lives.
Hyperthyroidism occurs when thyroid hormone levels exceed the body's requirements. Treating hyperthyroidism can reduce blood glucose levels in patients. Regularly monitoring blood glucose levels when being treated for hyperthyroidism can prevent complications resulting from low blood glucose levels. Patients diagnosed with diabetes and thyroid disease must ensure that all health care providers are made aware of both conditions when seeking treatment or requesting thyroid medication.
Please contact your health care provider immediately if you're experiencing problems with blood glucose levels or other symptoms associated with medications prescribed for thyroid disease or diabetes.