Underactive thyroid, heart problems and oedema: how do they go together?

My MIL was admitted to hospital w tachycardia/afib/high blood pressure/breathlessness/fatigue last week. She has been very swollen for years (feet, legs, arms etc); there is a deep groove where her wristwatch is and her feet are like little balloons. She has shown other uat symptoms but won't see a doctor. For years my partner and I have discussed how to get her to have a thyroid test.

The good news is that the doctor seems to be on the ball and has done thyroid tests but I'm unclear on the route of disease that has led her down this path. If this is the result of uat, is it the increased fluid that affects the heart or the ineffective heart that causes the fluid retention or - ? And how does uat cause afib? (I see it is usually associated w Graves.)

I understand the increased fluid in the body can raise the bp, but everything else is unclear. Just trying to understand more in preparation to talk w the doctor.

8 Replies

  • PB,

    I am sorry to hear this.

    The heart is affected by low thyroid hormone because the metabolism is slowed so encouraging a slow heart rate and low blood pressure.

    A slow heart beat long term may encourage fluid around the heart and heart disease. Also the metabolic changes may cause secondary condition such as high cholesterol, known to narrow the arteries..

    Oedema is common in hypothyroidism but I can't remember why !

  • Yes, I guess I'm wondering how the fast heartbeat and high blood pressure are related to uat - ? But maybe they aren't and that's just bad luck - ? Or I guess years of uncontrolled high cholesterol + oedema could affect bp. She doesn't seem to have any heart disease though, which is good.

    I don't get the sense they're looking for Graves (which could explain afib and fast heartbeat), I think they're thinking uat.

  • High blood pressure is related. See stopthethyroidmadness.com/b...

    It's funny, I'd never noticed until recently how utterly anti-levothyroxine STTM is these days. I'm sure they never used to be quite that militant...

    Anyway, leaving aside references to getting your hands on NDT ASAP... ::) the rest of the info about the mechanism sounds right, from what I remember from my A&P lessons during nursing training.

    Oedema is usually a combination of struggling kidneys and heart failure, unfortunately.

  • Yes, they don't miss an opportunity to tell you how ndt is the only answer. :-) Thanks for the link.

    Would the oedema not be a result of years of untreated uat? MIL has healthy heart and kidneys apparently, according to tests done in hosp. Not that she otherwise would've known, not having seen a gp in a decade! They've put her on diuretics and we're still waiting for the thyroid results.

  • Ah, well in that case, that would be idiopathic oedema. There does seem to be something that would link it to hypothyroidism - unfortunately the abstract's not very illuminating and you have to pay for the full article - but there's this: onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi...

  • Of course, it's no coincidence that "edema" is part of the word "myxedema". Could be mucin?

  • A well-known symptom of uat and one of the main reasons I take t3 (without it I can't fit into my clothes).

  • Super! Comprehensive and very helpful, many thanks.

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