Hypothyroidism is a condition of insufficient thyroid hormone production and is usually diagnosed by assessing a patient's symptoms and blood test results. For more information on hypothyroidism, including symptoms, causes and how to diagnose, please click here. It is important that you work closely with your endocrinologist to determine your best course of treatment. For a referral to one of Cedars-Sinai's expert team members, please call (310) 248-6510.
Hypothyroidism is treated with a single daily dose of levothyroxine, given as a tablet. Your endocrinologist will prescribe the correct form and dosage to return the thyroid balance to normal. Older patients who may have underlying heart disease are usually started at a low dose and gradually increased while younger healthy patients can be started on full replacement doses at once. Thyroid hormone acts very slowly in some parts of the body, so it may take several months after the medication is started to notice improvement in symptoms.
Since most cases of hypothyroidism are permanent and often progressive, it is usually necessary to treat this condition throughout one's lifetime. Periodic monitoring of TSH levels and one's clinical status is necessary to ensure that the proper dose is being given, since medication doses may have to be adjusted from time to time. Optimal adjustment of thyroid hormone dosage is critical, since the body is very sensitive to even small changes in thyroid hormone levels. The tablets come in 12 different strengths, and it is essential to take them in a consistent manner every day.
Hypothyroidism in pregnancy
Thyroid hormone levels are critical to the optimal development of the fetus, therefore it is extremely important that women planning to become pregnant have attained target levels prior to pregnancy. During pregnancy, thyroid hormone requirements increase an average of about 30%, so frequent blood monitoring is necessary. Various medications and supplements (particularly iron, calcium, fiber and soy) may affect the absorption of thyroid hormone; therefore, the levels may need more frequent monitoring during illness or if medications have been changed.
Appropriate management of hypothyroidism requires continued care by a physician (either by your endocrinologist or obstetrician) experienced in the treatment of this condition.