Your thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland which sits in front of your windpipe, just below your Adam's apple (voice box or larynx). The thyroid uses iodine from your diet to make two main chemicals called thyroid hormones which are carried in the blood stream to other tissues in the body to regulate your metabolic rate.
Hypothyroidism is under activity of the thyroid which occurs when the gland does not make enough thyroid hormones to meet the body's needs. This results in a slowing of many metabolic processes in the body which may have any or all of the following symptoms
- Feeling cold
- Feeling tired and lethargic
- Weight gain
- Puffiness of the face
- Dry skin
- Hair loss
- In women, periods may become heavier than usual.
The aim of treatment is to restore your thyroid hormone levels to normal by taking the correct dose of hormone tablets called levothyroxine (or thyroxine for short). We usually advise starting a small dose and gradually increasing this until blood tests confirm the dose is correct. In this way the dose can be tailored to individual needs.
Most people need between 50 and 150 micrograms per day although very occasionally someone might need a higher dose. The symptoms of an underactive thyroid gland usually take several weeks to improve once treatment is started.
You will need to continue taking tablets for life to ensure you maintain normal levels of this important hormone in the blood stream.
Thyroxine is a regularly prescribed and very safe drug, Should you miss a tablet you will probably not notice significant ill effects unless you have missed your tablets for one or perhaps two days. After that however you would quickly begin to feel tired and run down.
If you become pregnant you should continue with your thyroxine tablets. They will not harm the baby in any way. In fact, the dose of thyroxine may need to be increased during the pregnancy to ensure your thyroid hormone levels remain normal. You should seek advice from your GP as soon as you know you are pregnant.