Hypothyroidism Treatment

  • Treatment

    Diet and other lifestyle measures can help to lessen the severity of hypothyroidism.

    • Eat a low-fat, high-fiber diet. High cholesterol is one of the consequences of untreated hypothyroidism. Therefore, it is important to eat a diet that is low in fat and high in fiber to keep cholesterol down.
    • Eat only cooked vegetables. Some experts argue that eating raw cruciferous vegetables interferes with thyroid hormone production because of a certain compound in raw vegetables that blocks a component of thyroid hormone. Cooking the vegetables inactivates this compound.
    • Quit smoking. If you smoke, consider kicking the habit. One research team found that smoking significantly increased the risk of hypothyroidism.

    Your doctor is the best source of information on the drug treatment choices available to you.

    Naturopathic physicians prescribe natural hormone replacement preparations (derived from animal thyroid glands), but they are not accepted by conventional practitioners. Natural preparations contain both forms of thyroid hormone in a ratio that mainstream medical doctors consider unacceptable. Natural thyroid hormone products are not regulated by the FDA, and therefore may vary from refill to refill.

    In certain populations, such as the elderly and pregnant women, hormone replacement therapy dosage needs are different from those of typical adults. Geriatric patients may need half to two-thirds the amount of the standard adult dosage of thyroid hormone, whereas pregnant women may need twice the amount. Likewise, women who are taking estrogen replacement therapy may also need a higher dosage of thyroid hormone. People who suffer from chest pain or others types of heart disease usually start thyroid hormone replacement therapy with a very small dose and increase their dosage gradually under the supervision of their doctors. All dosage changes should be made by your doctor.

    With medication to restore thyroid hormone levels, your symptoms should resolve. However, you will probably need to take medication for the rest of your life and will need to be monitored to see if dosage changes are necessary. It may take a couple of months to get your thyroid hormones levels back to normal. But once you have worked with your doctor to establish this, you should notice that your symptoms start going away.

    It is important to take your thyroid medication regularly. There are problems associated with not taking enough and taking too much thyroid hormone. If you do not take enough of the hormone, you may continue to experience symptoms such as muscle cramps or feeling slowed down. In addition, taking too little medication may lead to hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) as a result of excess cholesterol. Too much thyroid hormone, on the other hand, can lead to symptoms of hyperthyroidism such as nervousness and insomnia, as well as heart rhythm disorders and eventual loss of bone density.

    Thyroid underactivity compromises health in a variety of ways, and can even threaten life. Be sure to get your thyroid checked if you think you might have a problem. One study found that having even just a mildly underactive thyroid gland increased the risk of heart attack in a group of older women. This is because hypothyroidism raises levels of harmful blood fats like LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Having an unfavorable cholesterol profile can damage and narrow the arteries that serve your heart; this can lead to a heart attack or some other form of heart disease. Hypothyroidism has also been linked to depression.

    After starting thyroid hormone replacement therapy, you will need to see your doctor every few months for a TSH test until levels are stabilized. Yearly visits are required after that. This can help your doctor determine whether the amount of thyroid hormone you are taking is right for you. Your doctor will keep adjusting the dose until your TSH falls within the normal range; this should not take more than a few months. After that, you will need to go back once a year to make sure the levels remain normal.

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I'm Shereen A. Gharbia, PharmD. Welcome to PDR Health!

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