The thyroid gland is located in the neck and produces several hormones that regulate metabolism. If your thyroid isn’t functioning correctly, it can lead to a condition called hypothyroidism, which is characterized by symptoms such as fatigue, weight gain, constipation, and feeling cold all the time.
Hypothyroidism can be managed by taking synthetic hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or levothyroxine (T4). This thyroid hormone therapy aims to increase thyroid hormone levels so they’re normal again. It’s essential not to take too much as this can cause side effects such as feeling cold and shakiness. However, take an appointment with your doctor for regular checkups to adjust your dose until you reach an average level that stays stable forever.
The thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland in the anterior neck.
This butterfly-shaped gland produces hormones that regulate metabolism, affecting your heart rate and body temperature, among other things. It produces three main hormones:
- Triiodothyronine (T3)
- Thyroxine (T4)
The thyroid hormones are essential for average growth and development during pregnancy and childhood; for example, they help ensure proper brain development during infancy by regulating growth hormone secretion from the pituitary gland – the pea-sized organ located at the base of the skull behind your eyes – and they support bone formation by stimulating calcium absorption in bones during adolescence through adulthood.
Thyroid hormone therapy is used in patients with hypothyroidism, an underactive thyroid.
The thyroid gland produces hormones that regulate metabolism and affect all your body’s functions. Hypothyroidism may make you feel tired and sluggish or gain weight despite a healthy diet and exercise routine. Thyroid hormone replacement drugs can help you feel better by correcting this imbalance by replacing the missing natural hormone (thyroxine) not produced by your body due to autoimmune destruction of the thyroid gland or surgery removing part of it (partial or total thyroidectomy).
Thyroid hormone therapy should not be confused with hormone therapy for breast cancer treatment; however, both types of medications contain similar active ingredients (estrogen); they are used for different purposes and have different side effects profiles depending on how much estrogen they contain.
Hypothyroidism can be managed with synthetic thyroid hormone replacement therapy.
You need to undergo this therapy when your body does not produce enough thyroid hormone. Hashimoto’s disease is the most common form of hypothyroidism, an autoimmune disorder that attacks the thyroid gland. It can also be caused by surgical removal of part or all of your thyroid, radiation therapy to treat cancer, or radiation exposure from other sources.
Synthetic thyroid hormone therapy may be recommended if you have Hashimoto’s disease and no other major medical problems that would prevent you from having surgery to remove your diseased thyroid gland.
Additionally, before using the medications, it’s crucial that you understand how they work so that you can manage any side effects effectively without needing additional treatment options like creams or injections and know when it might be time for further evaluation by your doctor if those measures aren’t helping sufficiently.
The most common form of synthetic thyroid hormone replacement is levothyroxine (also known as T4).
This synthetic version of thyroxine, the primary hormone your thyroid gland produces, is typically taken daily as a pill. Other replacement therapies include liothyronine (synthetic T3) and desiccated animal thyroid gland extracts like Armour Thyroid or Naturethroid.
Your doctor will adjust your dose to normalize your thyroid function and keep it there for life.
Visit your local York Davis Pharmacy expert to adjust the doses to control your thyroid function. This adjustment is recommended more than once, but as long as you and your doctor work together, the goal is to find a dose that keeps your thyroid hormone levels within normal ranges. The goal of treatment is not just to reduce symptoms but also to prevent long-term complications such as heart disease and osteoporosis (thinning bones).
Some people need radioactive iodine therapy.
Radioactive iodine therapy (RAI) is a treatment for thyroid cancer.
Radioactive iodine is a type of radioactive treatment that uses radioactive iodine to destroy cancer cells in the body. This type of radiation is not used to treat hypothyroidism because it doesn’t affect the thyroid gland in any way; it only affects tumors that have grown in or on top of your thyroid gland. When given as a single dose, RAI can help shrink tumors and relieve symptoms such as pain or pressure in an enlarged thyroid gland (goiter). The goal isn’t always complete removal; sometimes, doctors use RAI to reduce the size of one side so doctors can more easily remove both sides at once through surgery later on if needed.
Your doctor may recommend starting at a low dose and increasing by small increments until you reach the correct level.
While it’s common to think of taking thyroid hormone in milligrams, doctors measure it in micrograms (mcg).
For example, if your lab tests show that your TSH is five and FT4 is 1.8, your dose should be about: 100mcg levothyroxine (T4) daily. If you want to increase this dose based on symptoms such as fatigue or depression, try adding another 20mcg every 2-3 weeks until those symptoms are gone or minimized–but don’t exceed 120mcg/day.
Common side effects from levothyroxine may include feeling cold and shakiness, although many people don’t experience them.
Other side effects are profound:
- Hypothyroidism symptoms can return if you stop taking your medicine. For instance, if you have hypothyroidism, you might notice that the condition returns after stopping treatment with levothyroxine for a few weeks or months (known as a “rebound effect”). If this happens to you and your doctor thinks it’s safe for you to try again later, and it usually is, you might be able to prevent future rebounds by taking small doses of T3 hormone replacement while taking your usual dose of L-T4 (levothyroxine).
- Some people who take levothyroxine develop high levels of antibodies against their thyroid gland; these antibodies then attack other organs in the body as well as causing damage to healthy tissues elsewhere in the body, including joints (arthritis), eyes (cataracts), heart muscle tissue, etc. This condition is called autoimmune thyroid disease or Hashimoto’s disease
Patients on long-term levothyroxine therapy should have periodic checkups to ensure they take the proper dose.
The frequency of these checkups depends on your risk factors. You’ll need more frequent blood tests if you are at higher risk for developing hyperthyroidism. You might only need one every few years if you’re at lower risk. A blood test before starting treatment and again after six months is recommended as a baseline measurement of TSH and free T4 levels. If these levels are too low or high, respectively, or if there’s been no significant change since the first test, adjustments may be needed to achieve optimal thyroid hormone levels without causing side effects like fatigue or weight gain from overmedication.
Your doctor can help you minimize side effects by adjusting or changing your dose of hormone therapy.
If you are experiencing any of the side effects listed above, take an appointment with your doctor periodically. Your physician may be able to adjust or change your dose of hormone therapy to minimize the risk of continued side effects.
We hope this article has given you a better understanding of thyroid hormone therapy and its side effects. While it may seem like a complicated process, the bottom line is that your doctor can help you minimize these side effects by adjusting or changing your dose.