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Traumatic Brain Injury and Hypothyroidism

Traumatic Brain Injury and Hypothyroidism

Football season is upon us. Your child may have already started practice for their upcoming season. You have undoubtedly heard about the risks associated with collision and potential concussions, but are you aware of TBI, traumatic brain injury, and the long-term health risks such as hormone issues and thyroid dysfunction?

According to recent statistics, about 1.7 million Americans suffer from some form of traumatic brain injury every year. This can come from falls, motor vehicle accidents, blunt force to the head (physical abuse, beatings/fights, gunshot wounds or other forms of violence) and sports injuries. TBI is any sort of sudden damage to the brain either through the head being hit once or multiple times, or an object going through the skull.

The reason this negatively affects the thyroid and endocrine system is because two very vital parts of the endocrine system our housed in or near the brain: the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland. Their function, simply put, is to instruct the body to create and secrete various hormones within the body.

The hypothalamus’ job is to maintain homeostasis and regulate the release of hormones produced by the pituitary gland. In addition to producing hormones, the pituitary gland also instructs other gland to begin making hormones.

Unfortunately, when an individual has TBI the thyroid dysfunction can remain undetected. This is due to the fact that with TBI the TSH, thyroid stimulating hormone (a hormone excreted from the pituitary gland), does not elevate in response to the low thyroid hormones. Because most physicians only test the TSH, this can leave the individual in a very poor state for a long time.

Additionally, TBI impacts the conversion of thyroid hormones. When the body is in a stressed state, as it is with TBI, the body coverts the T4 to reverse T3 rather than the active form, T3. The conversion to RT3 is normal to an extent, but when the majority of T4 is being converted to RT3 the body’s metabolism is greatly compromised.

Other conditions such as adrenal fatigue or insufficiency, growth hormone deficiency, hypogonadism, diabetes, and hyperprolactinemia can present as a result of TBI.

The symptoms to look out for include,

Cognitive Issues:

  • Trouble concentrating
  • Memory issues
  • Impulsiveness
  • Confusion
  • Attention problems
  • Easily disctracted

Speech Problems:

  • Difficulty expressing verbally
  • Slurred speak
  • Problems reading and/or writing

Vision Issues:

  • Partial or total loss of vision
  • Blurred vision
  • Difficulty or problems judging distance
  • Light intolerance

Other Difficulties:

  • Hearing
  • Taste
  • Seizures
  • Social/Emotional changes

In order to confirm the diagnosis, the doctor will need to run hormone blood tests and may request a MRI to confirm the state of the pituitary gland.

If you or someone you know has experienced head trauma and is now showing symptoms associated with thyroid dysfunction, it would be a good idea to discuss the possibility of TBI with your physician.

About the Author

Naomi Parker

Patient Advocate

Naomi Parker is a patient advocate that is enthralled by the medical field. Hypothyroidism became a topic of interest over the last few years while she worked amongst alternative medicine doctors as a front office assistant. She believes that information is key and strives to become better informed so as to help others achieve success and wellness.

Naomi has written various articles concerning hypothyroidism including information on diagnostics and treatment. She enjoys learning alongside others and passing on vital information regarding this condition. Naomi is actively monitoring and writing for the National Academy of Hypothyroidism both on the site and social media.

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Austin Theriault
Austin Theriault
5 years ago

Great article! How can I get in contact with the author Naomi Parker?

Michael Withrow
Michael Withrow
3 years ago
Reply to  Naomi Parker

Thanks for this.. probably the best article I’ve read so far that explains my issues…. I’ve been speaking to a few veterans who have the same issue and nobody has been able to explain why we are having these symptoms (the VA is notoriously slow). I myself was at the end of my rope. sleeping 20 hours a day having trouble remembering things was making my life, not worth living. Finally getting help now, but NOT through the VA system.

3 years ago

Hi, Michael, You might want to check out the work by Dr. Mark Gordon. He is an endocrinologist who now specializes in working with veterans who have suffered TBI’s due to exposure to blasts, etc. He works with Andrew Marr, a vet, to run a non-profit to get vets the help they need in recovering from TBIs. Good luck!

5 years ago

Hi Naomi
I’m interested to know more about the brain injury thyroid connection. I had a brain injury on right side frontal lobe in 2005 I had cognitive issues for over a year following it, with behavioural changes and speech problems.. I was not given an mri at the time so am not aware of any damage done. I don’t feel I have ever been the same person since this accident. In 2012 I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and given t4 medication. I became very ill on this within 3 months, with heart palpitations and felt like I was cooking on the inside.. I stopped medication and have basically lived a miserable life ever since. I go to work, and I am irrationally and moody and very sensitive. When I come home from work I have no desire to see anyone or do anything. The last five years have been a mere existence and my short term memory is dreadful, along with bouts of anger. I am permanently tired and sleep at least 10 hours a day without ever feeling refreshed. I have tried every nutrient under the sun to help my thyroid naturally. All to no avail. I feel permanently dehydrated, with fluid retention in my face and hands.. (probably all over but I notice more in face and hands), dry skin and hair. Eyesight also blurry. Sensitive to noise and heat both hot and cold. No libido at all.. this changed in 2012.. prior to 2012 libido was abnormally high. Prior to head injury I was bubbly and positive and now I’m negative and struggle to feel joy.
My question to you is.. could it be possible that a brain injury could cause an underactive thyroid? And if so would it be normal that t4 medication would not work for me, due to how my body uses it? I’m now 44.
Thank you for any help you can provide.

4 years ago
Reply to  Pamela

Hello Pamela,

From your description it seems clear that your lasting problems are due to your brain injury in 2005. From your limited description and my experience it might very plausible that there are two causes for your current problems: (1) It might not be your thyroid that is the problem but your pituitary. (2) Your emotional and cognitive problems seem to indicate that your brain has sustained damage in the right frontal region but also the opposite posterior region on the left side.
I you have not sought help in the time since your post; I suggest that you find a qEEG specialist to find out which brain areas are not working the way they should. A blood screening for pituitary dysfunction might also be in order.


4 years ago
Reply to  John

Hi John/Naomi,

Im glad that i come accross this post. I have been living with all the above listed symptoms for the last several years.
Knowingly for the last 10 years.

Im now 38 years old. But when i was 14 years old, i was playing cricket which is baseball in US and was hit by hardball directly hardly on right side of my head above ear.
I fainted(i still dont remember how the ball hit me and what happened in that few mins) and woke up after sometime. Only thing i remember was i went for run and turning back and after that
my friends are lifting me on their sholders. Those days were not much advanced like these days and i just took some pills like a normal injury and lived with some swallow and pain around the hit area for couple of weeks or months.
Eventually i forgot about it. One thing that changed eventually in my life which i noticed was ,i changed from a kind of active person to a slow person.

I always feel i have more potential that what im upto now and something is causing to reduce my activity.

Back in 2008 april, before to that i was not sleeping well for so many days and so stressed of my work . One morning around 4am ET, i was turning my head right in my sleep and suddently i got spinning sensation and it was so severe.
I went to the doctor and they did all sort of tests like heart, head CT scan, MRI and everything was OK. But they mentioned that i have low thyroid and i should continue to use levothyrixin and i started taking it.

One thing for sure is whenever i undergo stess, either work related, or emotional or if i dont sleep well(ofcourse i always had sleep problems), or read on moving vehicle , i get numbness/light pain right side of my head.
When it is severe, it streches from neck through above ear to the right eye. That follows blurred vision and i miss clarity on what im seeing. This lasts for about 2-3 days. Only way it gets down is through not thinking much and enough rest.

Through it changed me emotionally, it didnt effect my education. I was always better student. However i often feel i have more potential than what i do.

Going back to 2008, i visited couple of nurologists and they did all sorts of tests and said there is nothing. I even told them that if i take rest my symtopns are going away. They tied this with work pressure.

How i come accross this port:
Recently there is a crickter hit by the hard ball and he diagnosed with delayed concussion which seemed related to my symptons. I have been facing vision problems. Some times i talk no nice and often times i look for words to speak.
When i was browsing for treatment i come accross this port and felf like i got ray of hope.

Currently i plan my day to be out of stress and try to stick to the plan and therefore managing my professoinal and personal life.

Now what would like to understand from you is, apart from CTScan, MRI that i already took, is QEEG test helps me to check if there is any problem on right side of my head. Im so thankful to you for any suggestions to get out this problem.
Thank you so much in advance.

4 years ago
Reply to  Siv

Hi John/Naomi,

I forgot to mention, my symptoms are more during winter season compared to other seasons.


Diana P
Diana P
4 years ago

Hi Naomi,

I am a PHD who was hit by a teen with a new phone speeding and playing a video game while driving at 55 mph. I was turning into my subdivision at 2 mph and suffered a TBI and spinal contusion. Two weeks prior to the accident, I had labs runs and my thyroid was normal. However, four weeks after the accident, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. I have been incredibly tired and was also diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, concussion with loss of consciousness and major depression. My life feels as it is over due to a kid playing a video game while speeding and driving. My doctors express there is no link between concussion and thyroid or whip lash and hypothyroidism, could you point me to peer-reviewed studies?


Diana P.

4 years ago

This is great info and very helpful to me. My thyroid is damaged due to a concussion from years ago. Are there any studies or is there any information out there about potentially “fixing” the problem? Can you undo the damage done – even 20-30 years later?

Michele bloffwitch
Michele bloffwitch
3 years ago

Hi Naomi

Ive had a TBI that has proberly taken 2 years to get over, & I still struggle with short term memory loss.
Im very active but have put on quite a bit of weight & recently found that my TSH level was 9
What things can i do to help get my throid function working ?

3 years ago

I need to take my 19 year old son to get tested for hypothyroid issues. After his concussion 3 years ago he has had diabetes insipidus, orthostatic hypotension and hormone problems. I really want to take him to someone who understands the part tbi plays in bringing on these issues. We live in Sarasota, FL area, but would be willing to travel to another area to get him help. Thank you for any help.

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