This FAQ page was written by the participants of the AOL Hypothyroid bulletin board. Its function is to help people newly diagnosed to better understand the basics of their disorder. Please remember that the participants on this board are not doctors or medical professionals. If you feel that you may have a thyroid disorder, please Seek Medical Attention.
FAQ: What does Hypothyroidism mean?
This is when the thyroid gland fails to produce a normal amount of thyroid hormone.
FAQ: What are the symptoms of Hypothyroidism?
Fatigue, sensitive to temperatures (hot or cold), dry skin, dry hair and nails that break easily, hair loss, heart rate slows, constipation, weight gain, sore muscles and joints, leg cramps at night, muscle swelling (including tongue), memory loss, decreased ability to think (brain fog), depression, sensitive to medications, tingling in fingers, loss of balance, difficulty walking. Heavier menstruation. Increased infections. Difficulty in getting pregnant.
FAQ: What is a goiter?
A goiter is an enlarged thyroid gland. There are many causes of goiter; the most common is an antibody attack of the thyroid; in third world countries it's iodine deficiency. In the case of hypothyroid patients, a goiter may be the first sign that your thyroid is failing.
In this case, falling blood levels of thyroid hormone have caused your pituitary gland to release thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) which has caused your thyroid to grow larger. Thyroid medication will usually result in a decrease of goiter over time, and may also reduce your thyroid antibody levels(if present).
FAQ: What is Thyroiditis?
Thyroiditis is an inflammation of the thyroid. There are several forms of thyroiditis to include Chronic or Hashimoto's thyroiditis, subacute thyroiditis, and painless or postpartum thyroiditis. Its believed the usual causes are Antibody activity and Virus's.
FAQ: What are the Medications?
The most commonly prescribed thyroid replacement medications are:
Eltroxin (Canada) = synthetic Thyroxine (T4), also referred to as L-Thyroxine/Levothyroxine
Armour = "Natural"(desiccated) Thyroid, contains both T4 and T3; made from Animal thyroid
Thyrolar = synthetic T4 and synthetic T3
Cytomel = syntheticTriiodothyronine (T3)
Generic T4 and T3 are also available.
FAQ: When should I take my medication and how?
Most of us on the board have found that taking our thyroid medication in the morning on an empty stomach with water has helped our bodies to absorb the medication. You should wait an hour to two hours after taking your medication to eat or take other pills - some suggest waiting three hours. Taking your medication with other vitamins or food could cause the medication to bind to the vitamins/minerals and wash out of your body without being absorbed. Consistency is important, it is a good idea to try to take your pills at the same time everyday.
Never stop taking your pills without notifying your doctor. Any side-effects should be reported to the doctor. Expect to wait at least 3 weeks before seeing any benefit from your pills. Many side-effects can be caused by your metabolism "speeding up" and will go away when your hormones level off. These side-effects can include: feeling hot, heart palpitations, sweating, etc.
FAQ: What are the Blood Tests ?
There are many blood tests that will need to be run in order to determine what your exact thyroid problems are. The basic ones are:
Free T4 (Free Thyroxine)
Free T3 (Free Triiodothyronine)
After your doctor has diagnosed you and you are doing better on your medication, your doctor may opt to only do the T4 and TSH tests. These tests will let your doctor know if there has been any changes that warrant a more thorough thyroid panel. It is possible to have different test results during different times of the month.
Different medications may also have an affect on the test results, whether by direct action/s or by affecting absorbtion. The following is a list of some medications that may cause your tests to not be accurate:
Cholestyramine, Ferrous Sulfate, Sucralfate, Aluminum Hydroxide, Antacids
Estrogens - including Birth Control Pills
Phenytoin, Carbamazepine, Rifampin
Stomach medications - like Tums and Pepto-Bismol
FAQ: Why so many blood tests?
Blood tests are the only way to see how your thyroid is responding to the medication. It is important that after starting your medication, your doctor has your blood tested every 4 to 6 weeks until your thyroid is balanced (euthyroid). It is documented that most people are euthyroid in 6 to 8 months(due to many factors it could be less or much longer). After that, every six months is okay. And when you have established that you are doing fine, then you will only need to be checked once a year unless you are experiencing problems.
Weight Gain and Diet:
Your thyroid will not cause you to get fat. Most books say that only a few pounds will be gained due to water retention. However, many of us gain a lot of weight. This is probably caused by our loss of energy and slower metabolism. Things that you used to be able to eat without a problem may now cause trouble. Some people lose the weight when their thyroid levels balance out. For many this is not the case. Many of us on the board have found that a low carbohydrate diet helps us to feel better and keeps us from gaining more weight. It is important to know that any diet will probably fail until you're euthyroid.
Visit AACE/ACE - Obesity Position Paper
Contains information of the latest studies on this subject and exercise.
Exercise is very important to keeping our metabolism moving. However, exercising strenuously before you are euthyroid could cause undo strain on the body. After becoming euthyroid, you may start out slowly and work up. But do not expect to be able to do what you used to do before your thyroid disorder began.
Who should I see about Exercising?
There is a specialist who deals with medical problems and exercise, they are called Exercise Physiologists. Many are usually located at Univeristies. As always you should ask your primary physician who is treating your thyroid condition before commencing any physical activity. The general rule again is you should be euthyroid on your thyroid replacement therapy before full exercise should be conducted.
FAQ: How do I find an Endocrinologist that specializes in Thyroid?
Endocrinologists specialize in a few different things. To find one that specializes in thyroid in your area, call the following Foundations:
The Thyroid Society 1-713-799-9909 or 1-800-THYROID
The MAGIC Foundation for Children's Growth 1-708-383-0808
Parent Support Line 1-800-3-MAGIC-3
There are many more internationally as well.
There are some wonderful books that will help you to understand what is going on within your body. Most of the information for this FAQ came from:
Your Thyroid: A Home Reference; by L.C. Wood, D.S. Cooper, and E.C. Ridgway
How Your Thyroid Works; Jack Baskin
Thyroid Disease: The Facts; RIS Bayliss
The Thyroid Gland: A Book for Thyroid Patients; Joel Hamburger
The Thyroid Source book; Sara Rosenthal
The Thyroid Book: What Goes Wrong and How to Treat It; Martin Surks
The Body at War: The Miracle of the Immune System; John Dwyer
24 Hour Chat - The Mining Company
Saturday at 11:00am (EST) General Thyroid Chat
Monday at 9:00pm (EST) Graves Disease(hyperthyroid)
Tuesday at 10:00pm (EST) Alternative Treatments in Hypothyroidism
Thursday at 9:00pm (EST) Hypothyroidism Chat
*keep checking back since the schedule can be changed*
Newsgroups/Usenet Groups for thyroid: keyword: "Usenet" or "Newsgroups" Select: "Search all newsgroups" Enter: "thyroid" conduct search Add to your newsgroup list the newsgroup that is shown on your screen.
Thyroid Disease - Welcome from The Mining Company
The Thyroid Foundation of America Homepage
The American Thyroid Association
Thyroid Foundation of Canada Home Page
The Thyroid Society
The MAGIC Foundation
Archives of THYROID@MAELSTROM.STJOHNS.EDU
Cross Town Endo Club - list of references and links
American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists
Wellness Web - The Patient's Network - Thyroid
I am sure these are the right pills - or are they?
Color Manufacturers Brand name (synthetic T4)
Euthyrox, Synthroid, Levoxyl, Levothroid
Euthyrox, Synthroid, Levoxyl, Levothroid, Eltroxin (no dyes used)
Euthyrox, Synthroid, Levoxyl (purple), Levothroid (gray), Eltroxin
Euthyrox, Synthroid, Levoxyl, Levothroid (mint green)
Euthyrox, Synthroid, Levoxyl, Levothroid, Eltroxin
Euthyrox, Synthroid, Levoxyl, Levothroid, Eltroxin
Euthyrox, Synthroid, Levoxyl, Levothroid (purple)
Levoxyl, Levothroid (listed as blue)
Euthyrox, Synthroid, Levoxyl, Levothroid (light blue), Eltroxin
Euthyrox, Synthroid, Levoxyl (turquoise),Levothroid (turquoise),Eltroxin
Euthyrox, Synthroid, Levoxyl, Levothroid, Eltroxin
Euthyrox, Synthroid, Levoxyl, Levothroid (lime green), Eltroxin
Note 2: If you take a T4 pill not listed on here please let me know. I'll need the name (brand) and Manufacturer of the pill so I can do some detective work and add it to the cross-reference chart if appropriate.
Send to DorsaiSiol
Note 2a*: All Brand Manufacturer pills are listed above in the chart. There were 25 Generic T4 pills available to pharmacies in 1997(in addition to the charted brand pills above). One study found that several generic brand prescriptions filled were actually filled with Levoxyl T4 pills(study listed in The Thyroid Society web page). The problem listing Generic pills is they change every year. Many of them just repackage T4 pills produced by the main manufacturers.
Note 3: I attempted to locate T4 Manufacturer web sites. Apparently there have been several buy outs and mergers. Some sites are under construction. So they are not added at this time.
The following links are three sites you can look up the above medications, or any drug, you have questions on based on the many questions people ask we have added these:
Drug InfoNet - Drug Information
A Layperson's Short Classification of Psychotherapeutic Drugs (by Judith Michelsen) Drug Information
Drug Information - RXlist
Written/Edited by ArlynSG and DorsaiSiol - members of the caring community on the AOL Hypothyroid bulletin board.
Inputs were submitted by various community readers and we thank you all.
Special thanks to:
Your Thyroid: A Home Reference by L.C. Wood, D.S. Cooper, and E.C. Ridgway
which provided the basic information for this FAQ.