Symptoms of Underactive Thyroid May Mimic Other Conditions
Many of the symptoms of hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) coincide with other conditions, allowing hypothyroidism to go undetected for quite some time. Changes in the menstrual cycle, constipation, depression, dry skin, hair loss, fatigue, and difficulty losing weight could be attributed to everything from menopause to normal aging. However, with the rates of thyroid disorders rising in recent decades, according to the American Thyroid Association (ATA), any potential thyroid symptoms should not be ignored. Left untreated, thyroid disorder increases the risk of certain serious conditions such as cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and infertility.
Treating Underactive Thyroid
The most effective way to properly treat the thyroid begins with proper testing and diagnosis. Blood tests, including the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) test, along with free t3, free t4, reverse T3, and thyroid antibody tests, are typically used to determine abnormal hormone levels. A full panel thyroid test is recommended to help avoid misdiagnosis. Many physicians rely solely on TSH levels, but this often misses the mark because sometimes the body does not properly convert T4 to T3, like it is supposed to do, and additional tests are usually needed for a more accurate measurement.
Very commonly, patients diagnosed with thyroid problems are prescribed a synthetic form of T4 called levothyroxine (also known by its brand name, Synthroid). This includes patients who are being treated solely for underactive thyroid symptoms as well as those who have undergone thyroid gland removal or radioactive iodine (RAI) treatment for hyperthyroidism. Levothyroxine side effects can include headaches, abdominal cramps, insomnia, hot flashes, heart fluttering, and weight changes. The more severe side effects can be worse than actual hypothyroidism symptoms!
Further, many patients treated with levothyroxine continue to experience hypothyroidism symptoms that can take a toll on daily life and even become debilitating. This is often the result of patients not getting a full thyroid panel test upon diagnosis or not having their treatment monitored for improper hormone conversion or imbalanced levels. T4 only accounts for a small portion of thyroid hormone activity; T3 plays a much larger role. In giving levothyroxine to patients, the idea is that the T4 from the drug will convert into T3 in the liver, yet many people do not adequately make this conversion due to things like aging, problems with nutrition, or hormone imbalances. For these people, levothyroxine alone is an inadequate treatment, and the addition of T3 to their treatment may be very helpful.
A further issue with inadequate testing is that taking levothyroxine may cause TSH levels to appear normal while free T3 levels are still low, which means symptoms may continue to appear. Unfortunately, most physicians don’t check free T3 levels, so this cause of thyroid symptoms often goes undetected. Working with a hormone expert can help relieve hypothyroid symptoms and even help prevent the condition from occurring in the first place. As the thyroid hormones work in unison with other hormones in the body, such as estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, an imbalance in these hormones puts the body at risk for developing hypothyroidism. Ensuring balance in the body can help reduce this risk.
The physicians within the BodyLogicMD network specialize in hormones and bioidentical hormone therapy, offering natural ways to test for any imbalances and restore health in the body. And unlike many conventional medicine physicians, whose aim is to balance the thyroid levels so they fall within “normal” parameters, physicians within the BodyLogicMD network instead help their patients reach optimum hormone levels so they can experience greater health and wellbeing. Contact a BodyLogicMD physician today and start living a life free of thyroid symptoms.