Tests to identify viruses are incredibly useful to help uncover a possible link between a long standing viral infection and thyroid dysfunction.
Viruses are common pathogens that the body finds hard to completely clear and it’s why some people experience post-viral fatigue. Not surprisingly, fatigue and other post-viral symptoms closely resemble symptoms associated with hypothyroidism so it is important to investigate further.
Furthermore, studies show viral infections activate the immune system and are implicated in the development of autoimmune thyroid diseases such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Researchers report components of several common viruses are detected in the thyroid of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis patients.
Could identifying a chronic viral infection help uncover the root cause of thyroid dysfunction?
These are the main viruses that establish life-long infection and are commonly associated with chronic health issues.
Chances are you’ve heard of some of these…
- Cytomegalovirus (CMV) antibodies
- Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) antibodies
- Hepatitis B virus (HBV)) antibodies
- Hepatitis C virus (HCV) antibodies
- Herpes simplex virus (HSV) antibodies
- Varicella Zoster virus antibodies
To ensure survival viruses act as hijackers, targeting specific organs. They invade healthy cells, and then use the cells to replicate themselves. This can damage or destroy the cells which causes a range of symptoms depending on the location. For example, when a virus takes hold in the liver it can lead to fatigue, liver tenderness, digestive disturbances, and nerve problems.
Research also shows when Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infects immune cells a protein produced by the virus ‘turns on’ the genes associated with autoimmunity.
As you can imagine, the longer a virus is in the body the harder it is to identify a problem. A virus lodged within cells continues to replicate and avoids detection by the immune system. This makes identifying a long standing viral infection a real challenge. It’s the reason infections lodged deep within the body are often missed with conventional testing.
The Hypothyroidism Post-Viral Fatigue Connection
Viral infections tend to attack, then retreat. These silent infections may even lay dormant for weeks, months, or even years before causing trouble.
You may already know chronic, active infections are linked to chronic fatigue syndrome. In fact, chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms often mimic those associated with hypothyroidism.
You can read more about chronic fatigue syndrome here; Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and The Hypothyroidism Connection
Tests to Identify Chronic Infections
EBV and CMV are the two most common viruses that trigger chronic fatigue symptoms. For this reason healthcare practitioners routinely antibody tests for these two viruses when a person is experiencing persistent fatigue.
When checking for past infection with EBV or CMV infection your healthcare practitioner will check for specific IgG antibodies to these two viruses.
What are IgG Antibodies?
IgG antibodies are produced by the immune system and provide the greatest antibody defence against invading pathogens. IgG levels rise during the initial stage of an infection, then stabilize as the acute illness resolves.
As a consequence, the IgG test is the most useful test to screen for past infection from a specific virus. Furthermore, you may be interested to know IgG antibodies to a particular virus remain in the blood for a lifetime.
Other Useful Blood Tests
- White cell count (WCC). Raised white blood cell levels indicate greater immune system activity due to an infection. As an example, an increased number of monocytes in the blood is seen in chronic infections. Monocytes are specialised white blood cells and a higher than normal reading helps confirm the presence of a chronic, active viral infection.
- Liver Function Test (LFT). Viruses can often affect the liver and for this reason your healthcare practitioner may also request a liver function test.
- Complete Thyroid Panel. A full thyroid function includes testing thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), free T4 (FT4), free T3 (FT3), reverse T3 (RT3), and thyroid antibodies.
Desailloud R, Hober D. Viruses and thyroiditis: an update. Virol J. 2009;6:5. Published 2009 Jan 12. Link
Dittfeld A, Gwizdek K, Michalski M, Wojnicz R. A possible link between the Epstein-Barr virus infection and autoimmune thyroid disorders. Cent Eur J Immunol. 2016;41(3):297-301. Link