Treatment For An Underactive Thyroid
The treatment for an underactive thyroid is more straightforward. In almost every case, the appropriate treatment is supplementation of thyroid hormones with a medication called levothyroxine.
Levothyroxine does not fix the problem with the thyroid. It simply replaces the thyroid hormone the body would make if it could, but cannot, whatever the cause of hypothyroidism.
Some people will need levothyroxine for a short time, but most patients will need to take thyroid hormones for the rest of their lives.
Whats The Connection Between Hypothyroidism And Weight Gain
Your thyroid is responsible for many of your bodys daily functions, including metabolism, organ function, and temperature control. When your body doesnt produce enough thyroid hormone, all of these functions can slow down.
If your thyroid gland doesnt function properly, your basal metabolic rate may be low. For that reason, an underactive thyroid is commonly associated with weight gain. The more severe the condition is, the greater your weight gain is likely to be.
The typical amount of weight gain isnt very high, though. Most people will gain somewhere between 5 and 10 pounds.
Properly treating the condition can help you lose any weight you gained while your thyroid levels were uncontrolled. However, keep in mind that thats not always the case. Symptoms of underactive thyroid, including weight gain, develop over a long period of time.
Its not uncommon for people with low thyroid hormone levels to lose no weight after theyre treated for the condition. That doesnt mean the condition isnt being properly treated. Instead, it may indicate that your weight gain was the result of lifestyle choices rather than low hormone levels.
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.
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The Difference Between Underactive And Overactive Thyroid
Your thyroid gland is vital to every cell in your body. It tells your organs and systems how fast or slow to work. It uses two hormones to do thisT4 and T3. And it knows how much of these hormones to make through directions from the pituitary gland.
The pituitary gland monitors the level of thyroid hormones. When levels fall too low, it makes TSH . TSH does just what it saysit stimulates the thyroid gland to make hormones. But when levels of thyroid hormone are too high, the pituitary stops making TSH. This tells the thyroid gland to stop making hormones. Its a delicate balance. When the system doesnt work, you have thyroid problems.
What Are The Signs & Symptoms Of Hypothyroidism
A person with mild hypothyroidism may feel just fine. In fact, it might cause no symptoms at all.
But if thyroid hormone levels get too low, symptoms can become more obvious. These include:
- dry skin or hair loss
- feeling cold
- weight gain
- slowed growth
- irregular menstrual periods in girls
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Role Of Diet In Treating Thyroid Dysfunction
I do not routinely recommend dietary changes in patients with overactive or underactive thyroid. Occasionally, patients with an overactive thyroid should avoid foods high in iodine such as seafood.
Similarly, there are some patients with underactive thyroids who may benefit from iodine supplementation. But in most developed countries, low iodine levels are not a significant factor in hypothyroidism.
How Should I Take Synthroid
Take Synthroid exactly as it was prescribed for you. Follow all directions on your prescription label and read all medication guides or instruction sheets. Your doctor may occasionally change your dose.
Synthroid works best if you take it on an empty stomach, 30 to 60 minutes before breakfast. Follow your doctor’s dosing instructions and try to take the medicine at the same time each day.
Synthroid can be given to infants and children who cannot swallow whole tablets by crushing the tablet and mixing the freshly crushed tablet in a small amount of water and immediately giving the misture by spoon or dropper. Do not store the crushed tablet/water mixture and do not administer it mixed with foods that decrease absorption of levothyroxine, such as soybean-based infant formula.
Levothyroxine doses are based on weight in children. Your child’s dose needs may change if the child gains or loses weight.
It may take several weeks before your body starts to respond to Synthroid. Keep using this medicine even if you feel well. You may need to take Synthroid for the rest of your life.
You may need frequent medical tests. Tell any doctor, dentist, or surgeon who treats you that you are using Synthroid.
Store at room temperature away from moisture and heat.
Do not share this medicine with another person, even if they have the same symptoms you have.
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What Are Clinical Trials For Hypothyroidism
Clinical trialsand other types of clinical studiesare part of medical research and involve people like you. When you volunteer to take part in a clinical study, you help doctors and researchers learn more about disease and improve health care for people in the future.
Researchers are studying many aspects of hypothyroidism, such as
- understanding how the disease progresses, its clinical presentation, and genetics
- investigating how effective and safe levothyroxine is for people with chronic kidney disease
Radiation Treatment Of The Thyroid
Radioactive iodine, a common treatment for hyperthyroidism, gradually destroys thyroid cells. If you receive radioactive iodine treatment, you probably will eventually develop hypothyroidism. Doctors also treat people who have head or neck cancers with external radiation therapy, which can also damage the thyroid if it is included in the treatment.
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Causes Of An Underactive Thyroid
An underactive thyroid is when your thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough of the hormone thyroxine .
Most cases of an underactive thyroid are caused by the immune system attacking the thyroid gland and damaging it, or by damage that occurs as a result of treatments for thyroid cancer or an overactive thyroid.
Diagnosis Of Underactive Thyroid
Your GP will ask about your symptoms and examine you. They may also ask you about your medical history.
If your GP thinks you may have an underactive thyroid, theyll ask you to have one or more blood tests. This is to check the level of thyroid hormones in your body. There are two main hormones measured in blood tests.
- TSH . This is made by your pituitary gland to control your thyroid gland. It tells your thyroid to make more hormones if the levels of thyroid hormone in your blood get too low.
- FT4 free T4 . This hormone is made by your thyroid gland.
You may hear these blood tests referred to as thyroid function tests. If you have an underactive thyroid, youll probably have a TSH level above normal and a free T4 level below normal.
If the results of the blood tests show that you have an underactive thyroid, youll usually be treated by your GP. But sometimes, your GP will refer you to an endocrinologist a doctor who specialises in treating hormone problems such as thyroid conditions.
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Surgical Removal Of Your Thyroid
If your entire thyroid gland is removed as a result of thyroid problems, youll develop hypothyroidism. Using thyroid medication for the rest of your life is the primary treatment.
If only a portion of the gland is removed, your thyroid may still be able to produce enough hormones on its own. Blood tests will help determine how much thyroid medication youll need.
What Is Turner Syndrome
Turner syndrome is a rare genetic disorder thatâs found only in girls. It can cause problems ranging from short height to heart defects. Sometimes, the symptoms are so mild that it doesnât get diagnosed until a female is a teen or young adult.
The condition can cause symptoms throughout your life, but treatments and continued research help people manage their condition.
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What Is An Underactive Thyroid
Underactive thyroid is also called hypothyroidism. This name refers to a condition where the thyroid gland fails to produce enough thyroid hormone. The gland is small and is located at the base of the throat. It is controlled by the pituitary gland, which releases something called thyroid stimulating hormone . When the thyroid gland detects TSH, it releases two different thyroid hormones called thyroxine and triiodothyronine. Sometimes the gland doesnt produce enough of one or both of these hormones and this results in hypothyroidism.
Symptoms of having an underactive thyroid gland can be varied. They frequently include tiredness, fatigue, and weight gain not explained by diet. Other symptoms like easily breakable fingernails, depression, very heavy menstrual periods, and extra sensitivity to cold can also be present.
An extremely underactive thyroid gland may result in loss of mental acuity and in some people, it may look early onset Alzheimers. Alternately some people lapse into coma due to extremely low blood pressure. In most cases, people receive treatment for underactive thyroid gland long before this occurs because they may feel like they are constantly under the weather and exhausted.
What Are The Symptoms
When thyroid hormone levels are too low, the bodys cells cant get enough thyroid hormone and the bodys processes start slowing down. As the body slows, you may notice that you feel colder, you tire more easily, your skin is getting drier, youre becoming forgetful and depressed, and youve started getting constipated. Because the symptoms are so variable and nonspecific, the only way to know for sure whether you have hypothyroidism is with a simple blood test for TSH.
KEEPING OTHER PEOPLE INFORMED
Tell your family members. Because thyroid disease runs in families, you should explain your hypothyroidism to your relatives and encourage them to get periodic TSH tests. Tell your other doctors and your pharmacist about your hypothyroidism and the drug and dose with which it is being treated. If you start seeing a new doctor, tell the doctor that you have hypothyroidism and you need your TSH tested every year. If you are seeing an endocrinologist, ask that copies of your reports be sent to your primary care doctor.
WHAT CAN YOU EXPECT OVER THE LONG TERM?
There is no cure for hypothyroidism, and most patients have it for life. There are exceptions: many patients with viral thyroiditis have their thyroid function return to normal, as do some patients with thyroiditis after pregnancy.
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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.
In People Being Treated For Thyroid Disease
A high TSH may be found in people being treated for either hypo- or hyperthyroidism.
With hypothyroidism, a high TSH usually means that the dose of thyroid hormone replacement needs to be increased.
In some cases, however, the dose is OK, but the medication is not being fully absorbed. For example, many foods and medications can affect the absorption of Synthroid in your system. Learning what to avoid while taking this medication is important for it to work properly.
With hyperthyroidism, a high TSH usually means that the treatmentbe it surgery, radioactive iodine, or medicationswas so effective in limiting the production of thyroid hormone it caused the person to become hypothyroid.
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If An Underactive Thyroid Isn’t Treated
It’s unlikely that you’d have many of the later symptoms of an underactive thyroid, because the condition is often identified before more serious symptoms appear.
Later symptoms of an underactive thyroid include:
- a low-pitched and hoarse voice
- a puffy-looking face
- thinned or partly missing eyebrows
- a slow heart rate
Symptoms Of An Overactive Thyroid And Underactive Thyroid
All the symptoms of an overactive thyroid are the result of speeding up the body, which include:
- Trouble sleeping
- Talking quickly and feeling anxious
- Rapid heart rate even when sitting still, which can lead to an abnormal heartbeat
- A gut that works overtime, which can lead to increased appetite, frequent bowel movements, diarrhea, and weight loss despite eating more
- In women, very light or absence of periods
All the symptoms of an underactive thyroid are the result of slowing the body down, which include:
- Feeling tired and sluggish even after getting an adequate amount of sleep
- Trouble with memory and foggy thinking
- Slow heartbeat, causing less blood flow to the kidneys and consequently water retention
- Slowing down of the gut, leading to decreased appetite, constipation, and weight gain despite eating less
- In women, frequent and heavy periods
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What Are The Symptoms Of Hypothyroidism
Hypothyroidism has many symptoms that can vary from person to person. Some common symptoms of hypothyroidism include
- thyroiditis, or inflammation of the thyroid
- congenital hypothyroidism, or hypothyroidism that is present at birth
- surgical removal of part or all of the thyroid
- radiation treatment of the thyroid
- some medicines
Less often, hypothyroidism is caused by too much or too little iodine in the diet or by disorders of the pituitary gland or hypothalamus.1 Iodine deficiency, however, is extremely rare in the United States.
How Do Doctors Diagnose Hypothyroidism
Your doctor will take your medical history and perform a physical exam. A hypothyroidism diagnosis cant be based on symptoms alone because many of its symptoms are the same as those of other diseases.1 Thats why your doctor may use several thyroid blood tests and imaging tests to confirm the diagnosis and find its cause.
Because hypothyroidism can cause fertility problems, women who have trouble getting pregnant often get tested for thyroid problems.
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Thyroid Surgery And Treatment As Causes Of Hypothyroidism
Thyroid treatment and surgery can lead to hypothyroidism.
Radiation treatment of the thyroid can also lead to hypothyroidism. Radioactive iodine is a common treatment for hyperthyroidism. It works by destroying the cells of the thyroid gland and decreasing the production of T4.
Radiation is also used to treat people with head and neck cancers, Hodgkins disease, and other lymphomas, which can lead to damage of the thyroid gland.
What Will A Biopsy Tell Me
Sometimes, a nodule or goiter just sits there and isnât dangerous.
When they do cause problems, it could be something like:
Gravesâ disease, which causes your thyroid to grow and make too many hormones.
Infection, where a virus causes pain and swelling in your thyroid.
Large nodules or goiters that are an issue because of their size. They can push into surrounding body parts and make it harder to breathe or swallow.
Toxic nodules or goiters, which are almost never cancer, can cause your thyroid to pump out too many hormones.
Cancer, which makes up about 10% of cases.
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What Are The Complications Of Hypothyroidism
Hypothyroidism can contribute to high cholesterol. If you have high cholesterol, you should get tested for hypothyroidism. Rarely, severe untreated hypothyroidism may lead to myxedema coma, an extreme form of hypothyroidism in which the bodys functions slow to a life-threatening point. Myxedema coma requires immediate medical treatment.
How Is Hypothyroidism Diagnosed
It can actually be difficult to diagnose hypothyroidism because the symptoms can be easily confused with other conditions. If you have any of the symptoms of hypothyroidism, talk to your healthcare provider. The main way to diagnose hypothyroidism is a blood test called the thyroid stimulating hormone test. Your healthcare provider may also order blood tests for conditions like Hashimotos disease. If the thyroid is enlarged, your provider may be able to feel it during a physical exam during an appointment.
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