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Fatigued or Full Throttle: Is Your Thyroid to Blame?

Understanding Thyroid Problems -- Symptoms and Treatments
(continued)

What Medicine Is Used for Hypothyroidism?

Doctors usually prescribe thyroid hormone pills to treat hypothyroidism. Most people start to feel better within a week or two. Your symptoms will probably go away within a few months. But you will likely need to keep taking the pills for the rest of your life.

In most cases, thyroid hormone medication works quickly to correct symptoms. People with hypothyroidism who take thyroid hormone medication usually notice:

  • Improved energy level
  • Gradual weight loss (in people with severe hypothyroidism at the time of diagnosis)
  • Improved mood and mental function (thinking, memory)
  • Improved pumping action of the heart and improved digestive tract function
  • Reduction in the size of an enlarged thyroid gland (goiter), if you have one
  • Lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels

It's important to take your medicine just the way your doctor tells you to. You will also need to see your doctor for follow-up visits to make sure you have the right dose. Getting too much or too little thyroid hormone can cause problems.

If you have mild (subclinical) hypothyroidism, you may not need treatment now. But you'll want to watch closely for signs that it is getting worse.

Thyroid Disease or Menopause?

According to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE), millions of women with unresolved menopausal-like symptoms, even those taking estrogen, may be suffering from undiagnosed thyroid disease. While symptoms such as fatigue, depression, mood swings, and sleep disturbances are frequently associated with menopause, they may also be signs of hypothyroidism.

A survey done by the AACE showed that only one in four women who have discussed menopause and its symptoms with a physician was also tested for thyroid disease. The thyroid plays a role in regulating overall body metabolism and influences the heart, brain, kidney, and reproductive system, along with muscle strength and appetite.

If you are experiencing symptoms of menopause and the symptoms persist despite appropriate therapy, ask your doctor to do a thyroid screen (TSH). A blood sample is all that is needed to make the initial diagnosis of hypothyroidism and treatment is easily achieved with thyroid replacement therapy.

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