The Connection between Alcohol and Thyroid Problems

Tess Thompson

It may not be generally known that the course of certain common disorders can be greatly influenced by the presence of another active disease. The connection between the consumption of alcohol or alcohol-withdrawal delirium and a thyroid problem like hypothyroidism is a classic example.

Symptoms of thyroid problems, especially hypothyroidism (under-active thyroid gland), usually manifest as fatigue, weakness, hoarseness, cold intolerance, dry skin, constipation, abnormally slow heart beat, delayed tendon response, weight gain and menstrual problems in women.

Although changes in the brain of a hypothyroid patient are normal, they are produced due to reduced cerebral blood flow. These changes are not known to cause neurobehavioral and cognitive disorders or symptoms. Triiodothyronine, the more potent of the two main thyroid hormones, has a significant effect on the use of glucose and oxygen in most tissues in the body.

Alcohol-withdrawal delirium, on the other hand, portrays an entirely opposite picture as compared to hypothyroidism. It is marked by an abnormally rapid heartbeat, tremors, hyperactive reflexes, confusion, salty perspiration and hallucinations. The human body has a natural adaptive response to prolonged drinking. A person drinking an average of 250 cc of alcohol per day may not normally experience symptoms associated with alcohol-withdrawal delirium while abstaining from drinking. The prevalence of hypothyroidism, however, can alter the scene to a large extent.

Symptoms of both hyperthyroidism and alcohol-withdrawal delirium are commonly seen by physicians, but there are not enough reported cases that show an interaction between the two conditions. However, some recent reports indicate that a hypothyroid condition can lower the threshold for the development of symptoms of alcohol-withdrawal delirium. Severe hypothyroidism, irrespective of whether it is a medical condition or caused by an overdose of thyroid medicine, can reduce the intensity of symptoms that physicians normally look for when recognizing alcohol-withdrawal delirium.

It is because of reasons like these that allopathic treatment necessitates specialist consultation. A general physician is not expected to be aware of recent developments and may not be able to correlate the interaction of two active conditions. This is also why patients are always advised to discuss their previous and present history with their doctor. Regardless of your thyroid condition  under-active or overactive thyroid  it is better to discuss your drinking habits with your doctor, even if you are a moderate drinker.

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