Hypothyroidism means your body does not make enough thyroid hormone to keep normal levels of the hormone in your blood. Hypothyroidism is more common as people age. It affects women more often than men. Be sure to talk with your health care provider to learn more about the cause of your condition.
Your Thyroid Gland
The thyroid gland is a butterfly shaped gland in the front of your neck. The cells in a normal healthy thyroid gland send out hormones, tri-iodothyronine (T3) and thyroxin (T4). When your thyroid gland gets a message from the brain that your body needs these two hormones, the thyroid gland sends them into the bloodstream. The blood then carries these hormones throughout your body. These hormones are needed to control your body's metabolism, growth and development, and activity of your nervous system.
When your body does not make enough thyroid hormone, you may have one or more of the following symptoms:
- Emotional changes
- Recent weight change
- Reduced appetite
- Decreased energy level
- Intolerance to cold
- Dry skin and hair
- Coarse or thinning hair
- Neck pain or swelling
- Hoarseness of voice
- Changes in menstrual cycle
- Change in sleep habits
- Joint or muscle pain
When your thyroid gland is not making enough thyroid hormone, your health care provider may give you a thyroid hormone. The pill often given is Synthroid or Levothyroxine Sodium. You will need to take your medicine each day at about the same time. The medicine should be taken on an empty stomach and at least 1/2 hour to one hour before breakfast and other medications each day. This medicine should be taken 4 hours away from multivitamins, iron supplements, antacids, soy and calcium supplements, as these supplements block the thyroid medication from being absorbed.
Once you start taking a thyroid pill, you will need to have follow-up blood tests done to make sure you are taking the correct dose. Your provider will tell you when to return for blood tests. Once the correct dose is prescribed, the signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism should improve. This will likely occur within a few weeks and resolve in 3-6 months or longer. It is very important that you keep taking your medicine even when you are feeling better.
Hypothyroidism is a lifelong condition. It must be treated with medicine. Do not stop taking this medicine unless told to do so by your health care provider.
Your health care provider may need to change the amount of medicine you are taking. Once you have started your medicine, you will need to watch for changes in how you feel.
Signs of too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism)
- Feeling warm when nobody else does
- Weight loss
- Unable to sit still
- Difficulty sleeping
- Hair may become fine and silky
Signs of too little thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism) see page 1.
Be sure to contact your health care provider if you are having any of the signs and symptoms of either too little or too much thyroid hormone or if you have any questions.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 05/29/2012
Copyright © 04/30/2012 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#5360
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