Medically reviewed by Carina Fung, PharmD, BCPPS

Hypothyroidism treatment

Hypothyroidism is usually a permanent condition, so lifelong hypothyroidism treatment is required.

This involves the daily intake of a synthetic thyroid hormone such as levothyroxine. This medication restores hormone levels and reverses signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism. As an example, it may help lower cholesterol levels and reverse any weight gain.

It’s important that you follow the dosage and administration instructions provided by your provider carefully.

How do you know how much levothyroxine you need to take?

This is calculated by measuring TSH levels every 4 to 8 weeks after treatment has started in order to closely monitor its level and calculate the correct dosage of levothyroxine for attaining optimal levels.

The dosage you need may change over time, so your TSH levels will probably be checked on at least a yearly basis once your condition is under control.

Do tell your provider if you are taking any other medication such as the blot clot-thinning agent heparin or vitamin supplements like biotin as these may interfere with your blood test results.

What if my hormone levels are on the edge of normal ranges?

If your levels are not yet in the range considered necessary for a diagnosis of hypothyroidism, your provider may choose to just monitor the situation and perform periodic follow-ups for laboratory tests and clinical evaluation.

This is often the case if you have subclinical hypothyroidism and positive thyroid peroxidase antibodies because of the increased risk of developing overt hypothyroidism.

Other treatments that may be required

If severe hypothyroidism is left untreated, it can lead to serious complications13 including infertility and/or pregnancy complications, cardiovascular issues, and renal and neurologic complications.

Additionally, untreated hypothyroidism can cause myxedema coma which is a serious complication. These patients need to be admitted immediately to the emergency room and may require hospital admission to manage this endocrine emergency. Myxedema coma can cause symptoms like seizures, altered mental state, difficulty breathing, and swollen ankles. Treatment of myxedema coma includes intravenous hydrocortisone, intravenous levothyroxine, and oral thyroxine.

Hypothyroidism treatment may require a multi-disciplinary approach, given the wide-ranging effects of hypothyroidism on different organ systems. Your healthcare team may consist of multiple specialists including a cardiologist, obstetrician-gynecologist or psychiatrist.

Your medication will be prescribed by this multidisciplinary team working together. This often leads to the best treatment plan for your particular conditions and ensures that there are no harmful contra-indications between the different types of medication.

Synthetic thyroxine preparations are available as brand names and generic preparations. However, experts believe14 that it’s important to not switch back and forth between the various manufacturers of levothyroxine in order to maintain consistency of treatment.

If you do need to change your medication, it’s recommended that you monitor your TSH and T4 levels for eight weeks to ensure this has not had an adverse effect upon your thyroxine levels.

When’s the best time to take levothyroxine?

This thyroid hormone replacement is recommended to be taken in the morning, 30 minutes before eating. You need to ensure that you avoid taking iron or calcium supplements within four hours of taking levothyroxine as these can interfere with absorption of your medication.

It’s important that you follow all the instructions that you are given regarding your medication in order for it to work effectively.

Dosage in children is determined by weight and age along with the results of clinical tests.

Hypothyroidism prevention

To combat hypothyroidism in countries where iodine deficiency15 is common, such as South East Asia and Africa, one solution has been to simply add iodine to salt. An alternative method is to take iodine supplements.

In developed countries like the US, iodine deficiency is not a common issue.

7 steps to reduce the risk of hypothyroidism

While there is no known way of preventing hypothyroidism if you have sufficient iodine in your diet, there are things you can do to reduce the risk of succumbing to it:

Wear a collar: If you need an X-ray around your head or neck, the heavy lead-lined collar will protect your neck16 from exposure to radiation, which could damage your thyroid gland and also help prevent thyroid cancer.

Don’t smoke: Cigarettes contain thiocyanate, which disrupts iodine uptake and blocks the production of thyroid hormones. Smoking also increases T4 levels and decreases TSH. This means that smokers are more likely to suffer from Graves disease, which leads to hypothyroidism and also eye complications.

Check your neck: Periodically examine your neck for nodules or bumps which may be near the surface.

Take selenium17 supplements: This is a nutrient found in certain proteins. The thyroid has the highest concentration of selenium in the body. Studies have shown that higher selenium intake may reduce the symptoms of hypothyroidism, although excessive levels have been linked to Type 2 diabetes. So make sure you discuss taking selenium with your provider first.

Get tested for Celiac disease: If you suspect you have it. Celiac disease causes your intestines to react to gluten and is three times more common in people with Graves’ disease or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Celiac causes poor absorption of minerals such as iodine and selenium, which may trigger thyroid dysfunction.

Avoid excess Soy: Along with iron, calcium, fiber and other food and drinks, there is some evidence that excessive levels of soy may interfere with your body’s absorption of levothyroxine. Leaving a 30–60-minute gap after taking your medication before consuming food and drink should ward off these unwanted side effects. For soy, the recommended wait time is four hours.

Take your medication: As mentioned above, if you have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, it’s really important that you take your medication properly as described in the previous section.

Hypothyroidism medication

At the present time, there is no known cure for hypothyroidism. However, by understanding the condition, recognizing the symptoms, and seeking medical attention you can manage the condition and get the right hypothyroidism medication before it leads to other serious conditions.

May be prescribed

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Patients are advised not to switch between different brands and generics without consulting their medical provider. There may be differences between each brand of medication and monitoring of thyroxine levels may be required to make sure that you keep your hypothyroidism under control.

Disclaimer: The information on this site is generalized and is not medical advice. It is intended to supplement, not substitute for, the expertise and judgment of your healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard seeking advice or delay in seeking treatment because of something you have read on our site. RxSaver makes no warranty as to the accuracy, reliability or completeness of this information.

If you are in crisis or you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.

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