I’ve been recently diagnosed with a thyroid auto-immune disease, Hashimotos. This means my immune system is attacking my thyroid. Truth is, this may have been happening for a long time, and only just recently got the right blood tests. But that’s not where the story begins!
In December I started having hot flashes at night for about 2 weeks. It seemed a little early for peri-menopause symptoms at age 40; I made an appointment with my Kaiser doctor to get my hormones and thyroid tested. She also thought to test for tuberculosis because night sweats are a symptom of TB. Being a clinic worker, I’ve been skin tested for TB several times, but the new test is a blood test.
Overall, I was feeling rather fine. In fact, by the time I got in with Kaiser, the hot flashes were just warm flushes.
The doctor called a few days later and told me I tested positive for TB! She told me to come to the clinic the next day for more blood work and a chest x-ray. Luckily the chest x-ray came back negative and the blood work was all normal, but my hormones and ovulation were off schedule and my period was two weeks late. This means I have what’s called latent TB. It’s a bit confusing because the tests for TB are actually testing your immune system exposure. Our immune systems have memory, and this test shows I’ve been exposed to TB. My labs indicate I’ve never gotten sick from it. Once you test positive for TB, you will always test positive even if you’ve been treated for it, because your immune system ‘recognizes’ the bacteria.
Treatment for TB is antibiotics for FOUR to NINE MONTHS!! There are two schools of thought for latent TB, one approach treats latent TB with the antibiotics just in case and the other approach does not treat it but monitors for it via occasional chest x-rays.
Did you play the Oregon Trail computer game in the late 1980’s or watch Little House on the Prairie? TB is also what we used to call consumption. In the old movies, you see the person coughing blood in their handkerchief and then dying two weeks later!
TB is the leading infectious cause of death worldwide and a common disease in developing countries. There is a lot of stigma attached to it. When people develop the cough, they often hide it and avoid going to the doctor or simply cannot afford treatment. The US has made major progress in treating it. In fact, most cases in the US are from non-US born folk and most US cases are successfully treated.
I called my mom to tell her what’s going on and then I learn some interesting family history. My grandmother had TB in 1961. It was in her kidney (80% of TB is in the lungs). Grandma had to have her kidney removed. My mom and her 4 siblings all got tested for TB at that time also. Mom and one aunt tested positive, and their chest x-rays showed old scar tissue but no active disease, indicating they got sick and recovered completely. Back then, recommendations were to keep getting annual chest x-rays to make sure it didn’t reactivate. It is now understood that TB will activate within several weeks to one year after initial exposure. It can be dormant for up to 2 years but that is rare.
Obviously, I needed to take this diagnosis seriously, but even one round of 10 days of antibiotics can be harmful. I’m grateful for my Bastyr community and asked around for recommendations for a Naturopathic Doctor. I made an appointment to get a second opinion and to find out how to support myself and minimize antibiotic side effects.
At this point I was in shock and thinking they mixed up my results with the wrong person!
Stay tuned for Part 2, more of my personal story and the fascinating treatment options I've found!!!!