High Blood Sugar and the Thyroid

A butterfly-shaped gland in the middle of the neck, called the thyroid, controls the body’s metabolism and produces many hormones to help the body determine how much energy to use at the cellular level.  Blood glucose, the other name for blood sugar, is the body’s main source of energy.  Insulin is released by the pancreas and performs the duty of filtering glucose into cells to be converted into energy for your body.  When the thyroid is diseased or simply not functioning properly, blood glucose is not metabolized correctly and the body responds poorly to the release of insulin.

There are two main categories of thyroid dysfunction; hyperthyroidism, in which the thyroid releases too much thyroid hormone, and hypothyroidism in which the exact opposite is happening.  Symptoms of too much thyroid hormone include a pounding heart and quick pulse, sweating, weight loss, shortness of breath, diarrhea, muscle weakness, and trouble concentrating.  Too little thyroid hormone can cause low energy, listlessness, depression, feeling cold, constipation, weight gain, low blood pressure and a slow pulse.

In a diabetic patient, thyroid problems are quite common, writes Dr. Patricia Wu.  In an article published in the Clinical Diabetes journal, Wu argues that diabetic patients have a much greater risk of developing a thyroid disorder and up to 30 percent of women with type 1 diabetes also have a thyroid condition.  With hyperthyroidism, according to the American Diabetes Association, the metabolism raises.  With an increase in metabolism, the body filters medications that are aimed at lowering blood sugar much quicker than normal and the medication leaves the body.  This can cause a rise in blood sugar.  Because hyperthyroidism and hypoglycemia have similar symptoms, using the blood sugar monitor is important in ensuring the correct plan of action in lowering blood sugar.

Hypothyroidism, on the other hand, is more likely to cause low blood sugar levels because medication stays in the body longer than usual.  Medications aimed at lowering blood sugar may be dosed in quantities that are too high to sustain a normal blood sugar level due to slow metabolism.  A significantly low blood sugar level can cause loss of consciousness and even death.

Once diagnosed with hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, a person with diabetes will work with his doctor to lower or increase the frequency or the dose of medication used to treat his diabetes.  A physician will also work with the patient to alter lifestyle choices to adequately handle both the diabetes and the thyroid condition to maintain a healthy, normal blood sugar level and avoid serious complications of one or both diseases.

Treatment of thyroid disorders depends on the type of thyroid disorder.  Hypothyroidism can be treated with oral medications while hyperthyroidism is much more difficult to treat.  Sometimes, surgery or radiation may be needed to deactivate or remove parts of or all of the thyroid gland.  Combination therapies are also implemented in some cases of hyperthyroidism.  Thyroid diseases are life-long conditions but with treatment and care, persons suffering from a thyroid problem can live long, happy lives.