Why Is Thyroid Medication Is Necessary For Hypothyroidism
Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones naturally to help regulate essential body functions. For this reason, people with overt hypothyroidism require lifelong thyroid hormone replacement medication. When thyroid hormones are low, you can experience several unpleasant symptoms that impact your overall health and life quality.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- Heavier than normal or irregular menstrual periods
- Thinning hair
What Causes An Underactive Thyroid
The most common cause of underactive thyroid is an autoimmune condition called Hashimotos disease. This is when your bodys immune system attacks and destroys the cells of your thyroid gland, making it produce fewer or no thyroid hormones.It is not clear what triggers this, but it sometimes runs in families. Underactive thyroid is also more common in people who have autoimmune conditions such as type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.
Other causes of an underactive thyroid include:
- thyroid cancer or its treatment
- medicines such as lithium or amiodarone
- iodine deficiency
If you are pregnant and have these symptoms, see your GP or doctor. If an underactive thyroid is left untreated, it can cause problems such as pre-eclampsia and premature labour.
What Happens If Hypothyroidism Is Not Treated
Hypothyroidism can become a serious and life-threatening medical condition if you do not get treatment from a healthcare provider. If you are not treated, your symptoms can become more severe and can include:
- Developing mental health problems.
- Not being able to maintain a normal body temperature.
- Having heart problems.
- Developing a goiter .
You can also develop a serious medical condition called myxedema coma. This can happen when hypothyroidism isnt treated.
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Who Is More Likely To Develop Hypothyroidism
Women are much more likely than men to develop hypothyroidism. The disease is also more common among people older than age 60.1
You are more likely to have hypothyroidism if you
- had a thyroid problem before, such as a goiter
- had surgery or radioactive iodine to correct a thyroid problem
- received radiation treatment to the thyroid, neck, or chest
- have a family history of thyroid disease
- were pregnant in the past 6 months
- have Turner syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects women
Your thyroid is also more likely to be underactive if you have other health problems, including
How To Tell If You Have Hypothyroidism Or Low Thyroid
Now there are a number of classic things we can see here. The first is around the cuticles. You can see the really jagged and rough edges. You see it on both sides here. The formal name for this is Paronychia and it is a very very hallmark sign of hypothyroidism, meaning low thyroid condition.
Therefore, even if you maintain the same treatment dose, your thyroxine and triiodothyronine thyroid hormone levels can drop, causing your thyroid-stimulating hormone to rise in response. Overall, you may feel the symptoms of hypothyroidism, including fatigue, weight gain, and depression.
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Does Birth Control Affect My Thyroid
When youre on birth control pills, the estrogen and progesterone inside of the pills can affect your thyroid-binding proteins. This increases your levels. If you have hypothyroidism, the dose of your medications will need to be increased while youre using birth control pills. Once you stop using birth control pills, the dosage will need to be lowered.
Diagnosing An Underactive Thyroid
It’s very important that an underactive thyroid is diagnosed as soon as possible.
Low levels of thyroid-producing hormones, such as triiodothyronine and thyroxine , can change the way the body processes fat.
- are pregnant or trying to get pregnant
- have just given birth
- have another health condition, such as heart disease, which may complicate your medication
- are taking a medication known to cause a reduction in thyroid hormones, such as amiodarone or lithium
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Changes To Other Hormone Systems In The Body
A recurring theme in this post is how thyroid hormone impacts many other hormone systems in your body.
In this section I want to outline the specific hormones and how thyroid hormone impacts them :
- Testosterone – Low thyroid hormone makes testosterone levels lower than normal resulting in weight gain, depression and a reduction in metabolism.
- Insulin – Low thyroid hormone results in insulin resistance which exacerbates weight gain and makes weight loss difficult.
- Leptin – Low thyroid hormone results in leptin resistance which alters basal metabolic rate and increases appetite dramatically.
- Cortisol – Low thyroid hormone results in higher than normal cortisol levels and therefore low energy levels.
- Progesterone – Low thyroid hormone results in low progesterone which leads to imbalances in the estrogen/progesterone ratio and may cause estrogen dominant conditions and symptoms.
The main point here is that these other hormone imbalances are a RESULT of low thyroid hormone in the body and simply taking thyroid hormone may not be enough to completely reverse these conditions.
These hormone imbalances may, in part, explain why so many hypothyroid patients still have difficulty with weight loss and low energy levels despite taking thyroid hormone.
Can Hypothyroidism Cause Erectile Dysfunction
In some cases, there can be a connection between untreated hypothyroidism and erectile dysfunction. When your hypothyroidism is caused by an issue with the pituitary gland, you can also have low testosterone levels. Treating hypothyroidism can often help with erectile dysfunction if it was directly caused by the hormone imbalance.
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Diagnosing Low Tsh Levels
The most common and effective test for low TSH is a blood test. In addition to analyzing your TSH level, your doctor is looking for T4 and T3 , which the thyroid produces. These three hormones give doctors an indication of which gland they should focus on, the thyroid or the pituitary.
Your doctor may send you to get some imaging testing done to get a look at your glands. An ultrasound can be performed, or a thyroid scan with slightly radioactive iodine and a special camera can look for inflammation or thyroid shrinkage.
Your thyroid may not be taking in enough iodine to produce the hormones it is supposed to to test this, doctors use the radioactive iodine uptake test, which involves a dose of slightly radioactive iodine and a special probe to check for uptake levels.
An antibody test can also be used to check for an autoimmune disorder, such as Graves disease, causing hyperthyroidism.
Favorite Integrative Sources For Hypothyroidism
Aside from their helpful overview pages on hypothyroid symptoms, the ATA has an extensive article about complementary and alternative medicine techniques for hypothyroidism. Here, read about the potential integrative treatment approaches for hypothyroidism, plus the ATAs overall take on their safety. Consider taking a copy of this article with you to your next endocrinology appointment to see if your doctor thinks any of the discussed methods could help work with your existing treatment to make you feel better.
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How Does My Thyroid Work
The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped organ located in the front of your neck just under the voice box . Picture the middle of the butterflys body centered on your neck, with the wings hugging around your windpipe . The main job of the thyroid is to control your metabolism. Metabolism is the process that your body uses to transform food to energy your body uses to function. The thyroid creates the hormones T4 and T3 to control your metabolism. These hormones work throughout the body to tell the bodys cells how much energy to use. They control your body temperature and heart rate.
When your thyroid works correctly, its constantly making hormones, releasing them and then making new hormones to replace whats been used. This keeps your metabolism functioning and all of your bodys systems in check. The amount of thyroid hormones in the bloodstream is controlled by the pituitary gland, which is located in the center of the skull below the brain. When the pituitary gland senses either a lack of thyroid hormone or too much, it adjusts its own hormone and sends it to the thyroid to balance out the amounts.
If the amount of thyroid hormones is too high or too low , the entire body is impacted.
What Is Hypothyroidism
Hypothyroidism, also called underactive thyroid disease, is a common disorder. With hypothyroidism, your thyroid gland does not make enough thyroid hormone.
The thyroid gland is located in the front lower part of your neck. Hormones released by the gland travel through your bloodstream and affect nearly every part of your body, from your heart and brain, to your muscles and skin.
The thyroid controls how your body’s cells use energy from food, a process called metabolism. Among other things, your metabolism affects your bodyâs temperature, your heartbeat, and how well you burn calories. If you don’t have enough thyroid hormone, your body processes slow down. That means your body makes less energy, and your metabolism becomes sluggish.
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Are There Any Side
Levothyroxine tablets replace the body’s natural hormone, so side-effects are uncommon. However, if you have angina, you may find that your angina pains become worse when you first start levothyroxine. Tell a doctor if this happens.
If you take too much levothyroxine it can lead to symptoms and problems of an overactive thyroid gland – for example:
- The sensation of a ‘thumping heart’ .
- An increased risk of developing ‘thinning’ of the bones .
This is why you need blood tests to check that you are taking the correct dose.
Other medicines may interfere with the action of levothyroxine – for example, carbamazepine, iron tablets, phenytoin, and rifampicin. If you start any of these medicines, or change the dose, you may need to alter the dose of the levothyroxine. Your doctor will advise. Also, if you take warfarin, the dose may need to be altered if you have a change in your dose of levothyroxine.
Favorite Hypothyroid Symptom App
Unlike other smartphone apps that focus on your health more generally, Boost Thyroid includes specific measurements related to your thyroid health. Not only can you include your T4 and T3 levels after your blood work, but this free app has you track your symptoms, lifestyle, and supplement intake. Such data can be significant when reading it against your lab work, so we suggest showing your doctor the app and your tracking information to see how your symptoms may correlate with your current treatment plan. Download it on Google Play or the App Store.
Thyroid Medication Is Overprescribed
A subset of people who take thyroid hormone replacement would likely be better off without this medication, as overdiagnosis of hypothyroid conditions is very common.
One study showed up to 60% of patients may be taking thyroid hormone replacement unnecessarily. In this study, 291 patients taking Levothyroxine were asked to pause their medication for 6-8 weeks. Many of these patients had been taking thyroid medication for years but did not have strong diagnostic indicators of thyroid disease.
- After going without synthetic thyroid hormone for several weeks, patients were given blood tests for thyroid function. 60.8% of patients had normal levels of thyroid hormone, meaning they did not require thyroid medication.
Potential Dangers Of Having Hypothyroidism
Because the body is expecting a certain amount of thyroid hormone, the pituitary will make additional thyroid stimulating hormone as a way to prompt the thyroid to produce more hormone.
This extra work at signaling the thyroid gland to keep producing TSH may cause it to become enlarged, leading to he formation of a goiter . Left untreated, the symptoms of hypothyroidism will usually progress. Rarely, complications can result in severe life-threatening depression, heart failure, or coma.
Hypothyroidism can often be diagnosed with a simple blood test: the thyroid hormone panel. In some persons, however, it’s not so simple and more detailed tests are needed. Most importantly, a good relationship with a good endocrinologist will almost surely be needed.
Hypothyroidism is completely treatable in many patients simply by taking a small pill once a day. However, this is a simplified statement, and it’s not always so easy. There are several types of thyroid hormone preparations and one type of medicine will not be the best therapy for all patients.
Many factors must be considered in establishing a personalized plan for the treatment of hypothyroidism and it is different for every patient.
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Changes In Your Metabolism
When your metabolism slows, many things can happen. Youâll probably feel tired and sluggish, be constipated, and you may gain weight, explains Adrian Dobs, MD, an endocrinologist at Johns Hopkins.
âSome people feel very sick, but thatâs not common,â she says.
As for those extra pounds, they can be tough to shed, according to Marilyn Tan, MD, chief of the Stanford Endocrine Clinic. Treatment alone wonât reverse the weight gain, she says. âYou really have to work at it.â
Depression And Brain Fog
Finally, because your body cant use energy as efficiently, your nervous system slows down. Combined with the feelings of fatigue, you can feel sluggish, experience mood swings, and see signs of depression. Patients who receive hormone replacement therapy usually report improvement for depressive symptoms.
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When Medication Is And Isnt Required
Standard blood tests for TSH and free T4 are very reliable indicators of who needs thyroid hormone replacement :
- TSH levels are abnormally high, and your free T4 levels are abnormally low: This means you have true hyperthyroidism. T4 medication is required.
- Slightly elevated TSH levels and normal free T4: This is called subclinical hypothyroid. This is an early form of hypothyroidism and requires monitoring but not T4 medication.
- Low free T3: This is a sign of inflammation, digestive issues, or a diet too low in carbs or calories. T3 medication is not normally required.
- Elevated thyroid antibodies with normal thyroid hormone levels: In this case, you do not need thyroid hormone replacement. Hashimotos disease does not always lead to hypothyroidism.
- Low free T4 and normal TSH: This is a sign of dysfunction in the pituitary gland. Consult an endocrinologist.
Whether your thyroid condition requires medication or not, many thyroid conditions can be improved through better gut health.
How Does Eating Diet And Nutrition Affect Hypothyroidism
Your thyroid uses iodine to make thyroid hormones. However, if you have Hashimotos disease or other types of autoimmune thyroid disorders, you may be sensitive to iodines harmful side effects. Eating foods that have large amounts of iodinesuch as kelp, dulse, or other kinds of seaweedmay cause or worsen hypothyroidism. Taking iodine supplements can have the same effect.
Talk with members of your health care team
- about what foods to limit or avoid
- if you take iodine supplements
- about any cough syrups you take because they may contain iodine
If you are pregnant, you need more iodine because the baby gets iodine from your diet. Talk with your doctor about how much iodine you need.
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Hypothyroidism Part : Too Little Thyroid Hormone
Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland is not able to produce enough thyroid hormone. Since the main purpose of thyroid hormone is to “run the body’s metabolism,” it is understandable that people with this condition will have symptoms associated with a slow metabolism.
While the estimates vary, approximately 10 million Americans are likely to have this common medical condition. In fact, as many as 10% of women may have some degree of thyroid hormone deficiency.
When your thyroid gland isn’t able to produce normal amounts of thyroid hormones, you’ll receive a diagnosis of hypothyroidism. Photo: 123rf
Hypothyroidism is more common than you would believe, and millions of people are currently hypothyroid and don’t know it. For an overview of how thyroid hormone is produced and how its production is regulated, check out our thyroid hormone production page.
When To See A Doctor
It is vital for people with unexplained fatigue or other signs or symptoms of hypothyroidism to see a doctor. Without treatment, an underactive thyroid can lead to serious complications, such as infertility, obesity, and heart disease.
A doctor can carry out a simple blood test to check a persons thyroid hormone levels. Treatment for hypothyroidism involves taking synthetic thyroid hormones. These medications are safe and effective once a person takes the right dose.
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Is Hypothyroidism During Pregnancy A Problem
Left untreated, hypothyroidism during pregnancy can affect both mother and baby. However, thyroid medicines can help prevent problems and are safe to take during pregnancy. Many women taking thyroid hormone medicine need a higher dose during pregnancy, so contact your doctor right away if you find out youre pregnant.
How Can I Treat A Thyroid Imbalance
Dr. Tates holistic approach to healthcare treats your imbalanced thyroid as an essential part of the entire body rather than an isolated concern. She works to understand the root cause of the imbalance to ensure you receive the best care.
At Grassroots Healthcare, we work to recommend a course of treatment that alleviates symptoms while improving the health of your thyroid. Depending on your symptoms, test results, and health history, Dr. Tate may recommend nutritional supplements, a healthy eating plan, medications, and changes to your lifestyle.
If youre experiencing symptoms of an imbalanced thyroid, the caring team at Grassroots Healthcare in Tulsa, Oklahoma, can help. Schedule your appointment today by visiting us here.
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