Medicine that boosts your levels of thyroid hormone is an easy way to treat your hypothyroidism. It's not a cure, but it can keep your condition under control for the rest of your life.
The most common treatment is levothyroxine (Levoxyl, Synthroid, Tirosint, Unithroid, Unithroid Direct), a man-made version of the thyroid hormone thyroxine (T4). It acts just like the hormone your thyroid gland normally makes. The right dose can make you feel a lot better.
Starting on Thyroid Hormone Treatment
Your doctor will decide how much to give you based on your:
- Thyroid hormone levels
If you're older, or you have heart disease, you'll probably start on a small dose. Your doctor will slowly raise the amount over time until you see an effect.
About 6 weeks after you start taking the medicine, you'll go back to your doctor for a blood test to check your thyroid hormone levels. Depending on what the results are, your dosage may change.
Once your levels are stable, you'll see your doctor for a blood test every 6 months to a year.
How to Take Your Medicine
To make sure your hypothyroidism stays under control:
Stick with the same brand. Different types of thyroid hormone medicine may contain slightly different doses. That could mess with your hormone levels.
Follow a schedule. Take your medicine at the same time each day. Aim for about an hour before a meal or at bedtime. Don't take it when you eat. Food, as well as some supplements, such as calcium, can affect the way your body uses it.
Don't skip doses. If you miss one, take it as soon as you remember. You can take two pills in one day if you need to.
Follow instructions carefully. Don't stop taking your medicine without first checking with your doctor.
When Your Symptoms Don't Go Away
You should start to feel better a few days after you begin taking medicine. But it may take a few months for your thyroid hormone levels to get back to normal.
If your levels get better, but you still have symptoms like fatigue and weight gain, your doctor may need to change your treatment.
The main risk of thyroid medicine is if you take too much of it, you can get symptoms of an overactive thyroid, like:
- Fast heartbeat
- Sensitivity to heat
- Nervousness and anxiety
- Thin skin and brittle hair
- Trouble sleeping
- Weight loss
If you have any of these, see your doctor for a blood test. They may need to lower your dose.
Drugs That Interact With Thyroid Medicine
Some medicines can affect the way your thyroid drug works, including:
- Anti-seizure medicines like carbamazepine (Tegretol) and phenytoin sodium (Dilantin)
- Birth control pills and estrogen
- Cancer drugs called tyrosine kinase inhibitors
- Medicines for depression, like sertraline (Zoloft)
If you take one of these meds, talk to your doctor about how you should time taking your other medications based on when you take your thyroid medication.
Stick With Treatment
You'll need to keep taking thyroid medicine throughout your life to control your hormone levels. Keep up with your treatment and you'll see results.