The 36-year-old reality TV star said she noticed strange symptoms occurring after she gave birth to her son Tristan in January. “I remember saying to my assistant, ‘I feel like I’m dead,’” she told Today.com. “My body was so tired. I was exhausted all the time and no amount of sleep could make it better.”
Originally, she brushed off her symptoms as part of her new reality: “I was like, I’m probably just foggy because of mom brain,’” she said.
However, when she encountered trouble breastfeeding, her lactation consultant encouraged her to seek medical help. She said that her supply dropped drastically: One day after pumping more than six ounces of milk, she was unable to produce even one ounce.
She soon learned her symptoms were caused by an autoimmune disorder called Hashimoto’s disease. “When [the doctor] told me what I had, I was in total shock,” El Moussa explained.
Hashimoto’s disease is common, affecting about five per cent of people in the US, per the Cleveland Clinic. The condition can cause an underactive thyroid, and people who are diagnosed with the disease live with it for the rest of their lives.
Many different symptoms are caused by lower-than-normal thyroid hormone levels triggered by Hashimoto’s disease, including weight gain, constipation, and fatigue. Other warning signs include feeling cold, dry skin, slower heart rate (also called bradycardia), muscle pain, joint stiffness, brittle or dry hair, hair loss, slow hair growth, depression, puffy eyes, and difficulty concentrating.
If a healthcare provider suspects Hashimoto’s disease, they may conduct a physical exam in which they feel your thyroid gland. They may also ask about your medical history and ask questions about the symptoms you’ve been experiencing.
From there, they may order blood tests, such as a thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) test, to confirm the diagnosis.
Some factors make people more likely to have Hashimoto’s disease, including family history. Per the Cleveland Clinic, genetics account for 80 per cent of your chances of having Hashimoto’s. Women are 10 times more likely to have the disease than men, and the risk also increases with age. People with certain autoimmune diseases—including celiac disease, lupus, Addison’s disease, pernicious anaemia, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and Sjögren’s syndrome—are also more likely to have Hashimoto’s.
Not everyone requires treatment for Hashimoto’s disease; sometimes, doctors prefer to monitor their patients instead of starting them on medications.
But there are multiple drugs that can help with the disease. The go-to medication is called levothyroxine, and there are multiple brand name options available in the US.
Levothyroxine helps regulate thyroid hormones, and people with Hashimoto’s disease have to take it every day. While the dose they require may change, they will have to take it for the rest of their life. The drug can cause complications such as irregular heartbeat, feeling shaky, unexplained weight loss, changes in your period, irritability, and sweating more than normal.
El Moussa told Today.com that she’s feeling better now that she’s received a diagnosis, explaining that she’s fallen into a healthy routine with Tristan. “We had a lot of things working against us, including my autoimmune disorder,” she told the outlet. “But we did it.”