By: Chelsea Slyker, PharmD, MPH
Hypothyroidism is a common condition caused by an underactive thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is located in the lower front of your neck and is crucial to a number of body functions including using energy, regulating your body temperature, and keeping your organs working correctly through the release of thyroid hormones. When your thyroid gland doesn’t release enough of these hormones you may start to notice a number of symptoms including fatigue, constipation, dry skin, thinning hair, weight gain, or depression.
Since hypothyroidism can present in many different ways, doing a simple blood test can help your physician diagnose you with the condition. Your TSH levels will indicate whether or not your thyroid gland is working property, and it can also help to guide treatment.
Luckily, hypothyroidism is easily treated with a medication prescribed by your doctor. The most common treatment is daily use of a medication called levothyroxine, which helps to increase your thyroid hormones. Dosing varies for every patient but can be monitored through blood tests. Once you find the right dose your symptoms should go away, and you should start to feel better and more energized. If the dose is too high you may experience insomnia, increased appetite, or heart palpitations.
Levothyroxine has little to no side effects once on the correct dose, but it must be taken daily.
It is important to take the medication around the same time every day and should be taken on an empty stomach. Be sure to avoid any supplements that contain iron or calcium and antacids that contain aluminum hydroxide for at least an hour after taking levothyroxine.
Hypothyroidism is not curable and because of that levothyroxine is typically a lifelong medication once started. The dose may change as you get older or if your lifestyle changes (for example weight gain or loss), but regular blood tests will help to determine that. As with every medication, be sure to tell your doctor you are taking levothyroxine before starting anything new to avoid drug interactions.
For more information on your thyroid gland and signs of hypothyroidism, please visit https://www.thyroid.org/patient-thyroid-information/