Treatment for Hypothyroidism

There are two main disorders of the thyroid: hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. Hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid, occurs when the thyroid does not produce enough thyroid hormone. Without sufficient thyroid hormone, your body’s entire metabolic process slows down, leading to a host of other health issues such as high cholesterol and heart disease.

How do you know if you have hypothyroidism?

A simple blood test (often included in annual physical exam) will examine levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and thyroxine (T4) in the blood. A high level of TSH and a low level of T4 could indicate you have an underactive thyroid and confirm a diagnosis of hypothyroidism. However, there are some warning signs that could lead you to suspect an underactive thyroid early. Symptoms include:

  • Weight gain
  • Enlargement of the thyroid gland
  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Depression
  • Dry skin
  • Cold intolerance or sensitivity
  • Brittle nails
  • Constipation
  • Muscle weakness or tenderness
  • Memory Issues
  • Hair loss
  • Fatigue

How do you treat hypothyroidism?

If your doctor determines that you require treatment, the treatment of choice for underactive thyroid is thyroid replacement medication, which will work to replenish the missing thyroid hormone in your system. Treatment may also depend on your weight and the severity of your symptoms.

It may take a couple of weeks for your thyroid hormone levels to return to a healthy range. For many, hormone levels will likely never return to normal, so hormone replacement is often a lifelong treatment. Your doctor will probably perform a TSH (thyroid-stimulating test) every year to reevaluate your levels of thyroid hormone. Over time, some patients require increased or decreased dosage depending on a number of factors.

If you suspect you may have hypothyroidism, don’t hesitate to reach out to your primary care provider about your concerns and further testing.

 

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