Living with diabetes and thyroid problems
Dr Morton's – the medical helpline is a telephone and web-based business providing medical advice to customers.
Dr Morton's
the medical helpline©

Living with diabetes and thyroid problems

Diabetes

Both diabetes and thyroid disease are increasingly common with diabetes now affecting 3.2 million people in the UK

  • understand glucose control
  • prevent diabetic complications
  • diagnose thyroid disease at home

With Dr Morton's - the medical helpline© you can email or phone a real doctor at any time for more information, reassurance or advice


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Dr Morton's Test Kit© for underactive thyroid

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See Dr Morton's Test Kit© for anti-thyroid peroxidase antibodies

Diabetes means that the body is unable regulate carbohydrate metabolism

When a healthy person eats food or drinks something containing glucose or other sugars, this triggers a response by the pancreas to release insulin. Insulin is essential for the transport of sugars out of the blood stream and into cells and the liver, where it is stored as a complex molecule called glycogen. Diabetes is usually diagnosed by a 'glucose tolerance test' which involves fasting (eating and drinking nothing except water for eight hours) and having blood glucose measured before and two hours after drinking a known amount of glucose, such as in a small bottle of Lucozade. If the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin the blood glucose levels will be high. Over time this can have many serious health consequences.

There are two main types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 usually comes to light in young people and most often needs treatment with insulin injections, together with careful attention to diet. Type 2 is often called 'maturity onset diabetes' and is usually treated with diet alone or with tablets such as metformin or glibenclamide.

Diabetes is partly genetic, in other words it is more likely if you have family members who have diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is strongly associated with being overweight which is one of the reasons why diabetes is now so common. Pregnancy can make blood sugar control more difficult. This is called gestational diabetes. It is very important that blood sugar is well controlled during pregnancy as the baby has no shortage of insulin and any excess glucose is stored away making the baby fat (macrosomia) and causing other possible pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia, premature delivery and sadly an increased stillbirth risk.

Sometimes diabetes will be diagnosed because of symptoms

These include

  • tiredness
  • excessive thirst
  • excessive urination and the need to get up at night to empty your bladder
  • blurred vision
  • weight loss
  • vaginal yeast (thrush) infection

Diabetes can lead to a great many complications, many of which are extremely serious or even fatal. These include eye disease (retinopathy), kidney disease (nephropathy), nerve damage (neuropathy) which causes numbness and pain in the limbs, increased risk of narrowing of major blood vessels with atherosclerosis leading to heart attacks and strokes, and poor circulation to the legs leading to gangrene which means that toe and even limb amputation is necessary.

Treating Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes and the complications of these diseases costs the NHS £1 million per hour.

The thyroid gland makes thyroxine which is vital for normal function of every cell in the body

Underactivity and overactivity of the thyroid gland is the next most common hormone (endocrine) problem. The thyroid gland sits at the front of the neck like a bow-tie. It is controlled by the master-gland, the pituitary gland, which sits just behind the bridge of the nose attached to the base of the brain. This gland also regulates the function of the adrenal glands, the ovaries in women and the testes in men. Sitting on the back of the thyroid gland are 4 small other glands called the parathyroids. These regulate the level of calcium in the blood.

All of these glands can be overactive or underactive. Read about these conditions in our articles by Dr Vicky Hordern, Consultant Endocrinologist and adviser to Dr Morton's - the medical helpline©.

Common symptoms of an underactive thyroid

  • weight gain
  • feeling the cold
  • constipation
  • reduced fertility
  • depression

Common symptoms of thyroid over-activity

  • weight loss
  • sweating and feeling hot
  • palpitations (racing heart rate)
  • frequent bowel actions
  • anxiety

For potential thyroid problems, a Dr Morton's Test Kit© is posted to you at home with a reply-paid envelope from our partner laboratory. Their process is confidential.

The turnaround time for analysis is two to three days (except for weekends and bank holidays) from receipt of your sample and so the whole process is likely to take around a week, depending mainly upon the post and how quickly you are able to return your sample. Your result is reviewed by our doctor. You will receive an email once this has been done notifying you to log back in using your confidential password to read what the doctor has said as well as access to the report.

Our doctors screen the Dr Morton's Test Kit© results for you so in some cases they may ask you to call them to discuss the result before you read it. Our charges for calls or further emails are as set out.

With Dr Morton's Test Kit© for thyroid function you can find out whether or not your thyroid gland is working normally.

When you should contact a doctor

  • if you are concerned that the symptoms you have may be due to a hormone (endocrine) problem. Some hormone problems are diagnosed by a single blood test but others require more complex tests in hospital
  • if you have already been diagnosed with diabetes, thyroid disease or some other hormone problem and are unclear about it or about your treatment
  • if you have diabetes and your blood sugar level is running very high, or if you are otherwise unwell - particularly if you are too unwell to eat
  • if you want to discuss the implications of your hormone problem on fertility or in pregnancy

Related topics

← back to advice on long-term conditions