Hypothyroidism is a condition that is caused by the inability of the thyroid gland to produce sufficient thyroid hormone. This hormone is responsible for controlling the body’s metabolic rate. Thyroid deficiency can affect all body functions and this can range from mild to severe forms. There is a general slowing of all physical and mental processes in individuals with hypothyroid.
Treatment for this condition is centered on restoring a normal metabolic state by replacing the lacking hormone causing the hypothyroid. Treatment quickly improves the symptoms and is oftentimes continued for life. Without which and if it goes untreated long enough, serious consequences can be expected and can even be fatal.
Hypothyroid Treatment Include
Administration of thyroid hormone replacement – T4 (thyroxine) and T3 (tri-iodothyronine) in the form of a tablet, pill, or liquid are taken daily by patients with hypothyroidism.
- Treatment with Synthetic T4 (Synthroid) – Treatment can be with T4 only which is the standard today. With the T4 only treatment, there is clear improvement in most hypothyroid symptoms as compared to the combination therapy. Since T4 is the more stable hormone, steady level of the hormone is provided throughout the day, avoiding fluctuations that come with T3 therapy. Synthetic levothyroxine (Synthroid or Levothroid) is the preferred preparation for hypothyroidism.
- Treatment with T3 and T4 combination (Liotrix) can also be given. As mentioned above, when T3 is given, the thyroid hormone level tends to fluctuate so this is only given to patients who may need T3. The ratio of T4 to T3 in this preparation is 4:1.
- Dessicated thyroid drug (Armour) – natural hormone therapy derived from thyroid hormone extracted from pigs. Before synthetic hormones became available, this used to be the standard for hypothyroid. A treatment regimen with desiccated thyroid is presently used when the individual is not responsive to synthetic therapy. Although not proven, some believe that the drug contains other hormones or factors which are not found in the synthetic version.
In cases of myxedema (severe hypothyroid), treatment is geared towards life-saving measures. T4 (Synthroid) is administered parenterally for immediate action and as thyroid hormone levels gradually return to normal, the patient is continuing on oral hormone replacement therapy.
With hypothyroid treatment, the dosage is adjusted over time and the normal blood level of the hormone is monitored. Blood tests should reflect normal levels of TSH and T4, though getting the right dosage for each patient can be tricky and take months. If too much of the medication is taken, hyperthyroidism can occur with the following telling symptoms: chest pain, fast heart rate, abnormal heart rhythms, excessive sweating, and inability to tolerate heat.
In this case, the thyroid hormone administration is discontinued immediately and can only be resumed once things normalize and deemed safe by the doctor. For patients with heart conditions, intake of the drug should be especially monitored for blood levels since a slight excess can trigger a heart attack. Other medications given to the patient should also be checked for interactions with thyroid hormone replacement therapy, especially antidepressants and anti-seizure medications.
If hypothyroid treatment is adequate, the symptoms will gradually improve with the resumption of normal metabolic activity. With this, most people will return to normal. However, the medication is needed for the rest of one’s life.