Apple Watch detects student’s thyroid problem months before diagnosis

A Sydney woman has revealed the stunning discovery she made in her smartwatch story after suffering for months with symptoms.

When Lauren Rebecca was diagnosed with a rare thyroid problem in December, it came after months of worsening symptoms including fatigue, temperature sensitivity and weight gain.

So the 21-year-old student from Sydney was understandably stunned when she discovered her Apple Watch had detected a dramatic change in a key health indicator throughout October.

The change could have saved her months of worsening symptoms and uncertainty, except Lauren was unaware of the change because notifications for that setting were disabled at the time.

Lauren, who is a nursing student studying to enter postgraduate medicine, first thought she was ‘super tired’ last October due to university work and the lockdown.

“I had all these symptoms which had been going on for a few months,” she told news.com.au.

“With Covid and our healthcare system being so overwhelmed with everything I was thinking, ‘no, no, I’m just tired, I’m just exhausted, I’ll be fine’.”

But she also began to struggle with weight gain, dry skin, irregular heartbeat and sensitivity to heat and cold.

“I’m going to go out in the sun and get nauseous, and that’s also very subtle — the air conditioning must be about 22 degrees in my house all the time,” Lauren said.

Her symptoms eventually got worse, prompting her to see her doctor and have her symptoms checked out in December.

An ultrasound of his neck revealed he was missing half of his thyroid, a rare birth defect known as hemiogenesis thyroid which only affects around 100 Australians.

The defect had caused Lauren to develop thyroiditis, a condition in which the thyroid gland becomes swollen and inflamed and was causing her symptoms.

Last week, Lauren looked at the Apple Watch history and was amazed to find that she had recorded a dramatic change in her health which, had she known, would have prompted her to see a doctor.

“I really went over it to see if everything was on,” she said.

“I saw there were alerts at the top of the app that never appeared as notifications because I didn’t have notifications turned on… I went through it and it’s at that time i could see the trend that my Vo2 max had dropped, literally within days.”

Vo2 max indicates how well your body takes in oxygen during exercise, with the drop meaning that Lauren suddenly couldn’t take in oxygen as well as before.

Lauren is now awaiting treatment for her condition, which she says caused her additional stress while studying for GAMSAT in March.

“It’s a five and a half hour exam and at the moment I’m so tired at lunchtime so if I had caught it in October it could have been implemented a bit quicker on the plans treatment and potentially bring fatigue under control, she says.

“I probably wouldn’t be in this position of always being tired and (not knowing) if it’s going to impact my exam.”

It prompted her make a tiktok video encouraging others to “make sure all those notifications are turned on right now”, so they can be notified immediately if anything goes wrong.

“We have so much technology available and most of the time it’s more of a burden than something positive,” Lauren said.

“But something as simple as an Apple Watch if you already have it, it constantly monitors your heart rate, it monitors different things that we do during exercise, things that we wouldn’t necessarily think of doing like check our heart rate after we exercise or while we sleep.

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