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,
- Trouble concentrating
- Memory issues
- Attention problems
- Easily disctracted
- Difficulty expressing verbally
- Slurred speak
- Problems reading and/or writing
- Partial or total loss of vision
- Blurred vision
- Difficulty or problems judging distance
- Light intolerance
- 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.