Diseases and Conditions

Thyroid Hormone Replacement Therapy

What is thyroid hormone therapy?

Thyroid hormone therapy is the use of synthetic thyroid hormones to raise abnormally low levels of thyroid hormones. Often used to treat an underactive thyroid that is secreting little or no thyroid hormones, thyroid hormone therapy is usually administered in pill form. The most commonly prescribed thyroid hormone replacement is pure synthetic thyroxine (T4).

Who needs thyroid hormone therapy?

Thyroid hormone therapy is generally prescribed when a person's thyroid is not producing enough thyroid hormone naturally (a condition referred to as hypothyroidism). Other reasons for using thyroid hormone therapy may include:

  • To control the growth of the enlarged thyroid gland (also called goiter)

  • To control the growth of nodules on the thyroid gland

  • Treatment after the removal of the thyroid for benign or malignant disease

  • Treatment of hyperthyroidism after radioactive iodine ablation

How is thyroid hormone therapy dosage determined?

Proper dosage is tailored to each individual patient's needs through careful blood testing. The blood tests reveal levels of thyroid hormones in the blood, as well as thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) released by the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland plays an integral role in the functioning of the thyroid gland. It controls how much thyroid hormone is released by producing TSH that "stimulates" the thyroid. Increased levels of TSH may indicate an underactive thyroid.

Yearly checkups are usually conducted to measure levels of thyroid hormones and TSH. Hypothyroidism can be a progressive disease, requiring dosage increases over time.

Ensuring proper thyroid hormone dosage

Proper thyroid hormone dosage is based on blood tests that measure levels of thyroid hormone and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). However, to ensure proper dosage for the duration of the treatment, consider the following recommendations:

  • Maintain regular visits to your doctor.

  • Take your thyroid medication daily on an empty stomach at the same time each day.

  • Notify your health care provider of your thyroid hormone treatment before beginning treatment for any other disease, as some adjunctive treatments can affect the dosage of thyroid hormone therapy.

  • Let your doctor know if you become pregnant.

  • Notify your doctor of any new symptoms that may arise.

  • Notify all health care providers of your thyroid condition and medication dosage.

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