Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid glands are unable to produce enough thyroid hormones. These hormones are important in maintaining the metabolic rate and energy levels of a person. Weakness, constipation, depression, fatigue, gaining weight, an intolerance to cold temperatures, and sometimes a swelling of the throat (goiter) are some of the symptoms of hypothyroidism. Most commonly there are two causes of this condition, including Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and low iodine content in the daily diet. In some rare cases, the reason for an underactive thyroid may include:
- Thyroid surgery in the past
- Impaired functioning of the hypothalamus/pituitary gland
- Birth defects (congenital)
- Some groups of medications
Hypothyroidism affects more women than men.
Signs like dry hair and skin, hair loss, oversleeping, decline in concentration, and a considerable rise in blood cholesterol help in diagnosing this disease. Measuring the blood TSH level or thyroid hormone levels is used to confirm the presence of hypothyroidism.
Restoring the normal functioning of thyroid glands by maintaining adequate levels of thyroid hormones in the body helps to treat the disease. The most common and effective method of treating hypothyroidism is the use of synthetic thyroxine in hormone replacement therapy. Hypothyroidism is a fairly treatable disorder, so there are no such complexities involved. However, in some severe cases, the patient might develop a deadly myxedema.
How is hypothyroidism treated?
The conventional method of treating hypothyroidism is hormone therapy using synthetic thyroid hormone, also known as levothyroxine. The dosage of hormone is based on the level of the hormones in the blood test. Each person may need a different dosage depending on the needs of the body. Both too little and excess of hormones in the blood may cause symptoms. Too little of the hormones may cause symptoms of hypothyroidism, like fatigue, gain in body weight, and constipation. Excess of thyroid hormones may result in shakiness and sleeplessness, and you could get a horde of symptoms like palpitations, increased heart beat, and an eventual rise in blood pressure.
Sometimes the T3 supplement (liothyronine) is coupled with the T4 when it does not work alone, although this is a very rare step.
The hormone therapy alone cannot be helpful in curing this disease. Maintaining a strict diet with fewer carbohydrates and more healthy fats, along with a daily routine of physical training would alleviate the symptoms and enhance the effect of the therapy.
Yoga and meditation are two very useful techniques in coping with the stress and weakness this disease puts you through.
How long will it take to cure the symptoms of hypothyroidism?
In most of the cases, the symptoms start reducing within first few weeks of hormone therapy and fully disappear within a few months. The response to hormone therapy with thyroxine is different in different people. In elderly people and in people with other diseases, improvement in condition may be delayed. Patients with hypothyroidism caused by Hashimoto’s thyroiditis may get back to normal thyroid gland function after a period of time without any specific treatment. If hypothyroidism is triggered by an infection, thyroid function may be restored when the infection is treated. Stopping the medication that causes hypothyroidism automatically restores the functioning of the thyroid gland.
Time might be of the essence, but in a disease like this, it is better to put in some added periods of effort and patience. Since your metabolism is at stake, it is wise to get regular checkups, even when you are cured.
Can hypothyroidism be cured during pregnancy?
Treatment of hypothyroidism during pregnancy is started immediately after diagnosis to prevent any harm to the developing fetus. There is a fear of the fetus developing cretinism if the disorder is left untreated for a long time. If the patient was on treatment for hypothyroidism before getting pregnant, the dosage may have to be reevaluated. During pregnancy, there is an increased demand for the hormones as the metabolic rate raises. Treatment is also needed for people who develop hypothyroidism after pregnancy. The dosage will be based on the level of hormones in the blood. In some cases, thyroid functioning may return to normal without any specific treatment, while, in some others, the treatment may have to be continued for a lifetime.
During pregnancy, it is a sensitive medical issue, as the treatment has to be precise and well thought out to prevent any damage to the fetus.
How long should I take treatment for hypothyroidism?
Once the treatment is initiated, one should take the medication as directed by the physician. In some people, the condition may worsen with age, and the dosage of medication may have to be increased accordingly. Mostly persons over the age of 60 are on a higher dose of medication and for a longer period of time.
If hypothyroidism is caused by an infection or a serious illness, the thyroid functioning may return back to normal once the illness or infection is treated. This can be checked by stopping the thyroid medication for some time. However, this should not be done unsupervised, as missing an important dose while on a course would be detrimental and disastrous.
If the symptoms of hypothyroidism do not persist, it shows that the thyroid functioning is getting back to normal. While continuing the thyroid medication, it is important to check the thyroid levels at least once a year to ensure that the dosage is correct. This can be done by testing the levels of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) in the blood.
Why do I have symptoms of hypothyroidism even while taking medication?
In some cases, the symptoms may continue even while on treatment, particularly if the thyroid hormone level is not sufficient. It can also happen if the hormone is not absorbed properly in the gastrointestinal system. The dosage may be increased in such cases to alleviate the symptoms of hypothyroidism. Sometimes the medication would not suit the patient, and in such cases a new medication is started. It is advised that the patient be totally frank with their doctors for them to get a better analysis of the disease.
Faith, trust, and a hint of relaxation in your lifestyle are must-haves.