Thyroid hormone replacement therapy does just what its name suggests. It replaces the thyroid hormones one needs but may not be receiving because his or her thyroid gland is not fully functioning. A thyroid that is not functioning normally is always cause for concern.
Your thyroid, the butterfly-shaped gland at the lower front of your neck, is responsible for producing the body’s thyroid hormones and is regulated by the pituitary gland. Thyroid hormones take care of the health of all cells and help keep your muscles, heart, brain and other organs in tip-top shape. They also facilitate the body’s use of energy.
Your health is at risk if you have an overactive or underactive thyroid.
The Symptoms of a Thyroid Problem are Varied
Thyroid problems can be hard to detect and require blood tests to confirm their presence.
An underactive thyroid—hypothyroidism—may include these symptoms:
- feeling tired, weak and depressed
- dry skin and brittle nails
- cold extremities and not being able to stand the cold
- mild weight gain and swelling of the legs
An overactive thyroid—hyperthyroidism—may include these symptoms:
- excessive sweating and heat intolerance
- weight loss
An underactive thyroid is quite common but an overactive thyroid is less common.
The Causes of a Thyroid Problem are Also Varied
There are a number of possible underlying causes of thyroid dysfunction that require thyroid treatment to protect your body from damage:
- The most common problem is hypothyroidism, a condition stemming from an underactive thyroid, which is not producing enough hormones.
- Adding to, or causing, the problem of an underactive thyroid can be a failure of the pituitary gland to provide enough necessary thyroid-stimulating hormones.
- The problems may stem from damage to these glands from surgery or radiation treatment.
- Thyroid cancer may force the surgical removal of the thyroid gland.
- Radioactive iodine ablation disables the thyroid.
Thyroid hormone replacement therapy addresses the root cause of an underactive or damaged thyroid, or when the thyroid has been removed. Additionally, it helps control the growth of enlarged thyroid glands (more popularly known as goiter) and of any nodules on the gland. If the thyroid is removed because of cancer, thyroid hormone replacement takes over the functions of the excised gland. It similarly helps prevent the growth of small or residual amounts of cancer cells.
Regardless of the exact cause of a thyroid dysfunction, the goal of replacement therapy is pretty much the same: to replicate, as closely as possible, the regular function of the thyroid gland so that thyroid hormone levels are in the same range as that of individuals with healthy thyroids.
Take Your Thyroid Medication as Prescribed
The right choice of thyroid replacement depends on the nature of your thyroid problem:
- Levothyroxine (Synthetic Thyroxine/T4) is a standard prescribed treatment for hypothyroidism among conventional physicians.
- You can also select from Liothyronine (Synthetic Triiodothyronine/T3) or Liotrix (Synthetic Thyroxine/Triiodothyronine T4/T3 Combination)
- Desiccated Natural Thyroid is made from fried porcine (pig) thyroid and was a popular option in the early 1990’s before Levothyroxine entered the scene. Holistically oriented physicians and more traditional doctors still believe desiccated natural thyroid addresses symptoms better than synthetic products.
Whichever choice you make or is made for you by your physician, for best results, take thyroid medication on an empty stomach or at least one hour before eating. According to practitioners, this helps ensure maximum absorption. In addition, experts advise against taking calcium and calcium-fortified orange juice, antacids and vitamins or supplements with iron at the same time as thyroid medication. It’s best to take them at two-hour or three-hour intervals
Whichever form it takes, thyroid hormone replacement medication stays in your system for a long time ensuring that the levels of thyroid hormones in your bloodstream are stable.
Patients: The compounded medications are available by prescription only. Please discuss it with your physician, or contact us with your physician’s name and contact information, and we can supply him or her with additional information.
Doctors: Contact us today to speak with our pharmacists to discuss other combinations that may be available to improve your patient’s symptoms and increase medication compliance.