Similarities Between My MG and Thyroid Disease Symptoms

I was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis (MG) and hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) during the same hospitalization. Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid does not make enough thyroid hormone.1

Some studies suggest that MG patients have a higher chance of developing thyroid disease compared to those who do not have MG. Because MG and hypothyroidism share some similarities in symptoms, it leaves me confused as to which one of my conditions is actually causing my symptoms.1

I have listed the main symptoms that affect me. Though I'm on thyroid medication and my condition is controlled, I still think my issues are due to both hypothyroidism and MG.

Fatigue and sleep issues

Fatigue is a common symptom of hypothyroidism. I sometimes experience this symptom, and combined with my MG fatigue, it can become overwhelming!1

Thyroid fatigue makes me feel like I can barely lift my head off my pillow in the morning, even after a "good" night's rest. Sometimes I feel like I need a nap during the day. Still, I may sleep more, but feel completely exhausted. Sometimes I feel extremely sleepy in the daytime to the point that I can't stay awake. It's usually worse when I'm sitting at the computer or just trying to watch TV. If I stay busy, I can usually work through it without having to take a nap.

Hypothyroidism can also affect your body's internal clock. I tend to wake up during the night, usually between 2 and 4 AM. It can also cause me to have trouble falling asleep or remaining asleep long enough to feel fully rested. Rest is so important with MG, but hypothyroidism can complicate that.3

Joint and muscle pain

My joint and muscle pain have been miserable. But are they caused by MG or thyroid disease ... or both? I also have nerve damage and pain from previous lumbar stenosis, so my lower extremities could be painful because of that too. I’m trying to learn how to tell the difference.

Temperature sensitivity

Having MG means we are often more sensitive to heat and cold. Hypothyroidism also can increase sensitivity to cold.1,4

For me, this mean when the temperature drops below 75 degrees I start feeling cold and may start shivering. Having both diseases compounds the cold feeling to the point that I have pain and am so very miserable. I generally cover up with heavy blankets, even in the summer, and use a heating pad until I feel warm again. The problem is, I know the room isn’t cold, but I feel like I’m freezing!

Most people are miserable at the temperature where I’m comfortable. Because of this, I keep a jacket and blanket handy and try to take them with me when I leave home. I’m sure some people think I’m nuts, but it’s something I can’t help!

Tips for better sleep

Although I experience several symptoms of hypothyroidism, fatigue is a major issue when combined with MG. Here are some things I try to do to help myself:

Find a comfortable sleeping temperature- Because I sometimes have trouble breathing, I usually have a fan running. However, that fan also intensifies my feeling cold. Therefore, I cover up until the cold sensation improves.

Get into a bedtime routine - I set the mood so I can wind down with soft music or other relaxing activities, like reading or taking a bath. It’s suggested that you turn off electronic devices at least an hour before bed. However, I do not do that, as it causes more issues with trying to sleep. I generally try to watch TV to relax. Usually I fall asleep fairly quickly.

Limit alcohol, caffeine, and avoid heavy meals close to bedtime - No worries about alcohol, as I rarely drink. I do have to be careful what I eat at night, so we try to have salads as often as we can tolerate them. It will sometimes cause abdominal pain, so I can’t have it all the time.

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