The dry puffy skin, rough voice, cold hands and feet, sluggish reflexes and movements, chronic pain, low basal temperature, scanty hair or gray hair in the 20s, marked dental problems, digestive disorders, recurrent infections, bouts of depression, and positive family history for thyroid related illnesses makes the diagnosis of hypothyroidism obvious.
In 1878, Dr. William Ord performed an autopsy on a middle-aged woman who succumbed to hypothyroidism. Upon cutting into her skin, he saw tissues that were thickened and boggy. The tissues appeared to be waterlogged, but no water seeped from his incisions. Dr. Ord realized this disease was unique and previously unrecognized.
Dr. Ord summoned a leading chemist named Halleburton to help identify the substance causing the swelling. What they found was an abnormally large accumulation of mucin. Mucin is a normal constituent of our tissues. It is a jelly-like material that spontaneously accumulates in hypothyroidism. Mucin grabs onto water and causes swelling. Dr. Halleburton found 50 times the normal amount of mucin in the womans skin. Her other tissues also contained excess mucin.
The doctors coined the term myxedema. Myx is the Greek word for mucin and edema means swelling. Myxedema was adopted as the medical term for hypothyroidism.
The edema or swelling associated with hypothyroidism usually begins around the face, particularly above or below the eyes and along the jaw line. However, the skin on the side of the upper arms may be thickened early in the course of the disease. The swelling associated with hypothyroidism is firm and will eventually spread throughout our bodys connective tissues.
One of the many functions of connective tissue is to help hold our bodies organs and structures together. Connective tissue lines our blood vessels, nervous system, muscles, mucous membranes, the gut, as well as each and every cell in our glands and organs. Abnormal accumulation of mucin in these tissues causes swelling and significantly impairs normal function.
This type of swelling is unique to hypothyroidism. Medical textbooks about hypothyroidism state that myxedema is thyroprival (pertaining to or characterized by hypothyroidism) and pathognomonic (specifically distinctive and diagnostic). Translation: if the thickened skin of myxedema is present, you have hypothyroidism. Normal skin is relatively thin, and you may easily lift it with your thumb and index finger. If you look, youll find a number of people whose skin is almost impossible to lift. This is due to the marked swelling and glue-like infiltration of mucin in the skin and underlying tissues that result from hypothyroidism. Womens skin usually has slightly more subcutaneous fat than men. Hence, their skin tends to be thicker. There are many different degrees of myxedema.
Unfortunately, even if your skin is of normal thickness, you may still have hypothyroidism. It is only one of many signs of this condition. This diagnostic clinical finding has been forgotten, usurped by the almighty thyroid blood tests. Mucin is a normal constituent of our tissues, and its accumulation is often increased with hypothyroidism. However, the accumulation of mucin may only affect the internal organs and tissues and spare the skin. You may have hypothyroidism despite having normal skin.
Todays doctors are not taught to examine for thickened skin or other physical manifestations of the illness.Sophisticated thyroid blood tests are purported to be the sole means for making the diagnosis of hypothyroidism. These tests have replaced the patients medical histories, complaints, and physical findings upon which the diagnosis was largely based for over half a century before the advent of blood tests.
During the first half of the twentieth century, prior to complete reliance on blood tests to diagnose hypothyroidism, elevated cholesterol was considered one of the hallmarks of hypothyroidism. In 1934, Dr. Hurxthal found cholesterol levels were very closely related to basal metabolic rate. However, since then, research showed there were many hypothyroid people, both young and old, with normal or lower than normal cholesterol levels.
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