Medication for hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) aims to balance the amount of thyroid stimulating hormone (THS) inside your body and as a result, restore your body’s hormones and metabolism to normal levels.
When starting thyroid medication, it’s important to remember that hypothyroidism, has no one-size-fits-all treatment plan. Determining the best medication for a patient and the right dose requires patients to work with their doctors through a process of trial and error, which can sometimes take several weeks or months to get exactly right.
After a patient’s initial hypothyroidism diagnosis, his or her doctor will likely prescribe a low dose of synthetic thyroid hormone (thyroid medication). The doctor will also schedule follow-up blood tests every six to eight weeks after the patient begins medication. During this time, doctors work with patients, adjusting medication dosages, until a healthy level of thyroid stimulating hormone consistently shows up in blood tests.
Once an appropriate dose has been determined, your doctor will likely schedule a six-month follow-up blood test and appointment and then ongoing annual wellness exams to ensure proper treatment.
Potential Side Effects of Starting Thyroid Medication
When starting thyroid medication for an underactive thyroid, it can take some time working with your doctor to determine the exact dose needed to balance your body’s hormone production. Patients who begin with too high of a dose can experience side effects of the medication which feel similar to the symptoms of hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid). These side effects include:
- Heat sensitivity
- Anxiety and/or nervousness
- Rapid heartbeat
- Increased appetite
- Weight loss
- Brittle hair
- Thin skin
If you experience any of these symptoms after starting a new thyroid medication, changing medication brands or after changing the dose of your thyroid medication, you should speak with your doctor.
Reaching Prescription Perfection Takes Patience
Thyroid medications are categorized as having what is called a narrow therapeutic index, which means that even the slightest differences in dosages can make huge differences inside the body. As a result, your doctor might need to make lots of minor adjustments to your prescription before you feel completely normal and healthy again.
For consistent and effective results, medications with a narrow therapeutic index must be taken exactly as prescribed by your doctor, at the same time each day. Also, to ensure proper absorption, these medications should also always be taken on an empty stomach and at least four hours apart from other medications, vitamins and fiber supplements.
Hypothyroidism is, unfortunately, a lifelong condition and usually requires lifelong treatment. After finding the right dose of thyroid medication, certain life changes can affect your body’s chemistry, prompting another period of dose adjustment with your doctor. Physical changes which might lead to an increased or reduced dose include pregnancy, menopause and the natural aging process.
Since everybody is different, every person will respond a little differently to thyroid medication. When starting a new thyroid medication or adjusting your medication dose, you should stay in close contact with your doctor to discuss any physical changes or side effects you experience.
Here are our 5 top tips on how to deal with Hypothyroidism. With a little patience and a daily reminder, individuals with hypothyroidism should be able to find the right dosage and return to living and enjoying life with restored energy and balance.