Taking Thyroid Hormone
Thyroxine and triiodothyronine are the names of the main hormones
your thyroid gland makes. They go to every cell in your body to
control the rate of metabolism, so that the cells burn energy faster
or slower. The thyroid uses iodine to make the hormones. The most
common form is thyroxine. It has four iodine atoms and is abbreviated
as T4. Triiodothyronine has three iodine atoms and is called T3.
Your Thyroid Pill
When you need extra hormone, your prescription will probably be
for one of the following: Levothroid®, Levoxyl®, Synthroid®,
or Unithroid® (all brand names). The generic name for the thyroid
pill is thyroxine. These are all synthetic forms of T4 and work
in the body the same way your own hormone does.
Other thyroid pills are Cytomel®, which is T3, Thyrolar®,
which is a synthetic mixture of T4 and T3, and dessicated thyroid
(Armour®), which is a T4/T3 mixture made from powdered animal
(pig) thyroid glands.
Take your pill at the same time every day, either in the morning
on an empty stomach or at bedtime (it shouldn't keep you awake).
Take calcium, iron, or other medicines at least 4 hours apart from
your thyroid pill. In order to keep your thyroid hormone dose absolutely
level, most doctors prescribe name brands rather than generics and
don't switch brands. Check with your doctor if your insurance company
recommends a change in brands, if your pharmacy makes a substitution,
or your pills are a different color than usual when you get your
Why Am I Taking Extra Thyroid Hormone?
The chief reason is that your own gland makes too little hormone,
and you may have felt dragged-out, chilly, or depressed because
your body function (metabolism) was subnormal. Common causes of
failing thyroid production:
- Hashimoto's thyroiditis, a chronic inflammatory condition that
gradually kills your thyroid cells
- Hormone imbalance after childbirth, postpartum thyroiditis
- After treatment for over-production of hormone (hyperthyroidism)
your gland may not make enough hormone, and the supplement brings
you back to normal
- Thyroid surgery may have removed your thyroid gland so you
are unable to make your normal amount of hormone, so you need
- Subacute thyroiditis, with temporary hormone imbalance occasionally
following a viral infection
Extra thyroid hormone is also used to help control some other
thyroid problems, including nodules in the gland, goiter (or overall
enlargement of the gland), and preventing the recurrence of a cancer
that has been treated and removed.
Now I Feel Well, Can't I Stop The Pills?
You feel well because your thyroid hormone is at the right level
for you. But you mustn't stop taking the extra hormone as long as
your gland won't make enough on its own. Most thyroid problems are
lifelong, and supplementary hormone needs to be taken lifelong too.
You may be able to stop after recovering from the inflammation
of postpartum or subacute thyroiditis, but not until your doctor
assures you the condition has resolved.
Why Do I Have To Keep Checking With My Doctor?
Whatever the reason that you need extra thyroid hormone, the situation
can change with time, and your dose may need to be adjusted or you
may need other treatment. So keep in touch.