Underactive thyroid is also called hypothyroidism. This name refers to a condition where the thyroid gland fails to produce enough thyroid hormone. The gland is small and is located at the base of the throat. It is controlled by the pituitary gland, which releases something called thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). When the thyroid gland detects TSH, it releases two different thyroid hormones called thyroxine and triiodothyronine. Sometimes the gland doesn’t produce enough of one or both of these hormones and this results in hypothyroidism.
Symptoms of having an underactive thyroid gland can be varied. They frequently include tiredness, fatigue, and weight gain not explained by diet. Other symptoms like easily breakable fingernails, depression, very heavy menstrual periods, and extra sensitivity to cold can also be present.
An extremely underactive thyroid gland may result in loss of mental acuity and in some people, it may look early onset Alzheimer’s. Alternately some people lapse into coma due to extremely low blood pressure. In most cases, people receive treatment for underactive thyroid gland long before this occurs because they may feel like they are constantly under the weather and exhausted.
Diagnosis of underactive thyroid is made through a blood test. When people have too much TSH and too little thyroxine, it’s frequently an indication that the body is not producing enough thyroid hormones. Usually people are treated with thyroxine only in the form of Synthroid or levothyroxine, a generic drug. Levels of these hormones will be tested again once treatment begins to make sure people are getting the right amounts of medication.
Sometimes medical treatment is touted as safe and effective without risk. This isn’t always the case. While many people tolerate thyroid medication very well, continued thyroid supplementation in older women is associated with increased risk for osteoporosis. Though it’s undoubtedly true that medication for underactive thyroid is important, it’s not without this serious side effect.
Another thing many people who take thyroid medication appear to notice is that treatment with generic drugs may not be quite as effective. There is some evidence to suggest that the brand name Synthroid works better, perhaps based on the way the drug breaks down in the body. There are some doctors that acknowledge that there does appear to be a difference between the generic and brand norm form, but not all doctors do. If generic medication does not appear to be offering you symptom relief from underactive thyroid, you might want try the brand name version, though it is more expensive.