can be easily treated using thyroid hormone medicine. The most effective and
reliable thyroid replacement hormone is man-made (synthetic). After starting
treatment, you will have regular visits with your doctor to make sure you have
the right dose of medicine.
In most cases, symptoms of
hypothyroidism start to improve within the first week after you start
treatment. All symptoms usually disappear within a few months. Infants and
children with hypothyroidism should always be treated. Older adults and people
who are in poor health may take longer to respond to the medicine.
By Janice Graham
As you hit one of those big birthdays, you probably worry more about new
wrinkles than about less visible body parts — like your heart. But recent
research has found that each decade of your life is a crossroads, with new
health concerns to worry about. What's more, you need to be aware of these
issues — because your doctor may not be. "Many physicians fail to recognize how
much a woman's risk factors for heart disease evolve over her lifetime," says
If you have had radiation therapy and have
hypothyroidism, or if your
thyroid gland has been removed, you will most likely
need treatment from now on. If your hypothyroidism is caused by
Hashimoto's thyroiditis, you might also need treatment
from now on. Sometimes, thyroid gland function returns on its
own in Hashimoto's thyroiditis.
If a serious illness or infection
triggered your hypothyroidism, your thyroid function most likely will return to
normal when you recover.
Some medicines may cause hypothyroidism.
Your thyroid function may return to normal when you stop the
If you have
mild (subclinical) hypothyroidism, you may not need
treatment but should be watched for signs of hypothyroidism getting worse. You and your doctor will talk about the pros and cons of taking medicine to treat your mild hypothyroidism. The dose of
thyroid medicine must be watched carefully in people who also have heart disease,
because too much medicine increases the risk of chest pain (angina) and
irregular heartbeats (atrial fibrillation).
Your doctor will treat your
hypothyroidism with the thyroid medicine levothyroxine (for example, Levothroid, Levoxyl, or Synthroid). Take your medicine as
directed. You will have another blood test 6 to 8 weeks later to make sure the
dose is right for you.
If you take too little medicine, you may
have symptoms of hypothyroidism, such as constipation, feeling cold or
sluggish, and gaining weight. Too much medicine can cause nervousness,
problems sleeping, and shaking (tremors). If you have heart disease, too much
medicine can cause irregular heartbeats and chest pain. People who also have heart
disease often start on a low dose of levothyroxine, which is increased
If you have severe hypothyroidism by the time you are
diagnosed, you will need immediate treatment. Severe, untreated hypothyroidism
myxedema coma, a rare, life-threatening condition.
If you develop hypothyroidism during
pregnancy, treatment should be started immediately. If you have hypothyroidism
before you become pregnant, your thyroid hormone levels need to be checked to make sure that you have the right dose of thyroid medicine. During pregnancy,
your dose of medicine may need to be increased by 25% to 50%.5
If you develop
hypothyroidism after pregnancy (postpartum hypothyroidism), you also may need treatment. You will be
retested for hypothyroidism if you become pregnant again. In some cases
hypothyroidism will go away on its own. In other cases it is permanent and
requires lifelong treatment.