Taking the Right Thyroid Medication


So you have been diagnosed with thyroid disease and are faithfully taking your medication. But do you feel better? Do you feel worse? About the same? Your doctor will adjust the amount of medication you take based on the amount of hormone your thyroid produces so the total amount of hormone falls within the normal range.

As you know there are many factors that can influence the functioning of your thyroid and change the amount of hormone it produces. If you have hypothyroidism, you might think that is a good thing and it is except for one small point.

If your thyroid suddenly starts making more hormone while you are receiving supplemental hormones you may wind up with too much hormone circulating in your system. This will cause a whole different set of symptoms which may leave you feeling anxious and confused.

Adding herbs or supplements to your diet can have the same effect. That is why you need to pay close attention to the signals your body sends to you. If you begin feeling fatigued or anxious or have new symptoms, you should make an appointment with your doctor. He may order a thyroid blood test to see what your hormone levels are.

Sometimes your symptoms might be caused by the medication itself and not necessarily your thyroid. Your doctor may have to change your medication. He will also take a look at all of your supplements and other prescription medications to see if something you are taking interferes with the absorption of your thyroid medication. If you find that your symptoms just do not clear up or they clear up and return repeatedly, you should ask your doctor to refer you to an endocrinologist who is more specialized in treating thyroid disorders.

Below are the medications used to treat thyroid disease.

L-thyroxine is the most common medication used to treat hypothyroidism. It is also known as Levothyroxine, T4 or thyroid hormone. This drug is the same substance as the thyroid hormone normally produced by your body. For that reason side effects are extremely rare. The trick is to establish the correct dosage so that your hypothyroidism is reversed but you are not pushed into hyperthyroidism. L-thyroxine is taken once a day and because it has a half life of over five days, if you miss a dose by several hours, it shouldn’t cause any problems. This drug is given in low dosages initially and the amount is increased over time until blood tests reveal the thyroid hormones are at the proper level in your body.

Iron and calcium interfere with the absorption of L-thyroxine so you should not take your multivitamin at the same time of day. Caffeine has also been shown to interfere with the absorption of L-thyroxine. It is recommended that you allow a few hours between drinking coffee and taking your thyroid medication. 

Triiodothyronine, or T3 is another thyroid hormone. In the body, T3 is derived from T4. T3 is a much more powerful hormone and can cause a dramatic response from the thyroid when it is administered as a medication. The action of T3 is very different than the action of T4. T3 has a half life of only a few hours so it disappears quickly from the body. A missed dose of T3 can have a much more pronounced effect than a missed dose of T4.

Triiodothyronine is also quite fast acting and if too much is taken it can cause cardiac complications such as chest pain, high blood pressure, rapid heart rate and palpitations. It can also cause sweating and anxiety. T3 is traditionally used for short intervals like after thyroid surgery. It is not used for long term thyroid treatment although studies are ongoing to determine if patients feel better when taking a combination of T3 and T4.

To get the best results from your medication, stick with the same brand. If your pharmacy changes brands, let your doctor know. It is thought there could be enough differences in manufacturing processes for thyroid medications to vary slightly which may have an effect on the total level in your blood. This means changing brands may cause you to experience symptoms again even if the dosage is the same.

Take your medication on an empty stomach and at the same time each day so absorption remains constant. Remember that any additional medications you take, like antibiotics, might have an effect upon the absorption of your medication so let the prescribing doctor know you take thyroid hormones.

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