It is has been reported by Harvard Medical School that over twelve million Americans are suffering from thyroid disease. They either have hyperthyroidism, where their thyroids are too active, or hypothyroidism, where their thyroids are too inactive. It is a serious problem either way which affects metabolism, your mood and overall quality of life. Located in the lower neck, the thyroid gland is responsible for the making of thyroid hormones. Abnormal levels of this hormone in your body can result in a lot of problems since they mediate the operation of your whole body.
What Is Thyroid Replacement Therapy?
Thyroid replacement therapy can closely copy a normal functioning thyroid. There are two different thyroid hormones--T3, or triiodothyronine and T4 or tetraiodothyronine. These both raise cellular metabolism, or cell activity, which is responsible for development of tissues, growth, regulation of body temperature, maintenance of brain function and many other cellular processes. These hormones have a very important role in your system.
Types of Thyroid Replacement Therapy
Thyroid replacement therapy is usually given in a pill form and this therapy can be divided into several types.
- Synthetic T4 medication
The thyroid replacement that is most common is pure synthetic thyroxine, or T4. This is because a majority of the T3 in your body was formerly T4. When these T4 hormones get into contact with other cells in your bloodstream, they release an iodine atom to interact with these cells. T4 turns into T3 when it loses an iodine atom. Taking synthetic T4 hormone is standard treatment for hypothyroidism.
- Animal thyroid medication
Animal thyroid, dried and powdered, is now mainly from pigs, and was the most common type of thyroid therapy before the discovery of the individual active thyroid hormones.
The pills have hormones and proteins which don’t exist in the body besides the thyroid gland since they are made from animal thyroid and are unpurified. Even though thyroid that is desiccated has both T4 and T3, the balance of these in animals isn’t the same as in humans, plus, the amounts of T4 and T3 can be different in each batch and even desiccated thyroid pills have binders or chemicals in them to hold it together, so these thyroid pills aren’t quite natural for our bodies. The desiccated animal thyroid is not better than synthetic T4 and is not prescribed much today.
- Synthetic T3 medication
Even though T3 is responsible for most actions of thyroid hormone, a majority of T3 comes from the transformation of T4. But T3 has a short life span, and there will be very high levels of T3 for a short time after taking it, then the levels will fall off very quickly. Therefore, T3 has to be taken many times per day, but even doing so doesn’t smooth out the levels of T3.
High levels of T3 can cause insomnia, rapid heartbeat and anxiety, harms to the bones and heart and the like. Therefore the use of T3 for the treatment of hypothyroidism is not recommended.
When do You Need Thyroid Replacement Therapy?
When your thyroid makes way too few or way too many of these hormones, a thyroid imbalance occurs. Hyperthyroidism, or an overactive thyroid, happens when the thyroid glands make too many hormones. Symptoms resulting from this can range from heart palpitations and anxiety to loss of weight, intolerance to heat and weakness in the muscles.
An underactive thyroid, or hypothyroidism, is much more common. Some even estimate that there are up to one in seven adults suffering from hypothyroidism. Your metabolism will slow down when your thyroid gland is underactive, and you suffer from symptoms like unexplained weight gain, fatigue, dry hair and skin, constipation, swelling or puffiness of the face, hair loss, muscle weakness and aches, brittle nail and hair, heavy menstrual periods, intolerance to cold and depression.
Under these circumstances, you need to take thyroid hormone pills to make up for the loss. This will help to keep up your body’s regular metabolism and help stop some thyroid cancers from coming back.
Tips for Thyroid Replacement Therapy
As a very individualized process, under doctor's instruction thyroid hormone replacement therapy is very safe and effective. Here are some tips to get the medication as effective as possible.
1. Take Right Dosage
You need to realize that therapy for every patient will be different. When it comes to thyroid hormone replacement therapy there is no set dosage or treatment plan. It will vary how much your body will absorb the hormones or how much you will need, therefore your plan will be individualized to your needs.
2. Mind Drug Interaction
Some dietary supplements and medications could affect your dosage of thyroid hormone, so ensure you tell your endocrinologist about anything you are already taking. Several different medications can affect your dosage of hormone, which include seizure disorder medications, anti-depressants, cholesterol-lowering drugs, supplements like iron, calcium and soy, and seizure disorder medications.
3. Look Out for Side Effects
Although side effects of thyroid replacement therapy are not common if the dosage is right, some might still have adverse reactions.
Reactions could vary from something as simple as a mild rash to anaphylactic shock and problems breathing. These reactions are treated like allergies and a doctor will sometimes use antihistamines to bring the reaction under control while they look for something that won’t create this reaction.
You may also experience other reactions such as tremors, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath or wheezing, chest pain, intolerance to heat or excessive sweating, nervousness, irregular or fast heartbeat, hives, or swelling of the feet, ankles or legs. Some reactions are pretty normal which include changes in menstrual periods, changes in appetite, hair loss, diarrhea, headache, weight loss and trouble sleeping. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should let your doctor know.
Watch a video to know more about why thyroid replacement therapy is needed: