General Question

Juliasmile's avatar

Can anyone tell me about abnormal and under-functioning thyroid?

Asked by Juliasmile (367points) April 28th, 2014

After my 15 year old daughter had blood work done we were told she has an abnormal and under-functioning thyroid. The nurse who called with the results didn’t give much information other than to say the doctor wanted to start my daughter on medication but once she started she would not be able to stop.
I’m not big on medication so we decided to talk with a specialist first.
Can anyone share their personal experiences with thyroid problems?
Is there any side effects to this medication?
Any natural treatment?

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16 Answers

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I have hypo-thyroid, an under-functioning thyroid. It was discovered when I was 11 years old. Hypo-thyroidism runs in my family.

I have been taking a thyroid hormone supplement ever since, and I have had no adverse side effects.

Since the thyroid hormone occurs only in the thyroid, there are no natural treatments. This hormone does not occur anywhere else other than the thyroid.

I’m 50 now, and I’m still taking a tiny pill of thyroid replacement hormone every morning without adverse effect.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

My mom has been on thyroid meds since she was 17. She’s now 82.

One thing, once you start taking them don’t fool around with them and stop. She will be killing herself. You need a balanced thyroid to survive.

ZEPHYRA's avatar

It has been affecting my weight and making me feel tired.

JLeslie's avatar

I think it is a very good idea to consult with a specialist. I also think repeat the test before taking a pill. In case there was a lab mistake. Repeat it right away, don’t wait a long time. If she needs the meds she must take them. The difference in how she feels will probably be significant and you might have avoided some depression, fatigue, and other health problems by catching this now. Has she been symptomatic? Dry eyes, dry hair, hair falling out, sleeping for more than ten hours, fatigued, slow heart rate, high blood pressure, low appetite, low enthusiasm to do things. People can easily mistake some of the symptoms for typical teenage behavior.

You can try to increase her iodine to treat it naturally. I don’t personally know anyone in America that this has worked for. Don’t try it a long time, her thyroid could be getting much worse fast. Either the natural methods you might want to try are working or not. Try it, test again within a month, if her numbers continue to get bad take the meds. If her TSH is already higher than 20, I would take the meds now (after the repeat test).

What you need to know is getting to the right dose can be difficult. When she starts taking medication if they overdose her she will become hyperthyroid induced by medication. Those symptoms are also dry eyes, dry hair, hair falling out, but the difference is, edgy, unable to sleep well, fast heart rate, low blood pressure, spacy, ravenous. Not everyone gets all symptoms when they are hypo or hyper.

I personally think when someone starts meds they should be tested in a month, and then again in a month, but usually most doctors make you wait 6–8 weeks. Go in as early as he will allow for the first follow up blood test, and be vigilant to test every 6–8 weeks for the first 6 months.

Everything your daughter complains about take seriously as possibly her thyroid being outside of normal limits.

Get familiar with her blood test numbers and tell her you want to know when she is feeling really good, so you can look at her tests at that time and now what her ideal numbers are. Normal is a range, but her normal is probably very narrow for feeling well. She may not realize how crappy she has been feeling until she begins to feel better on the medication.

TSH is inverse. High TSH means low thyroid. Anything above a 4 most endocrinologists will consider high, even though the normal range goes to 5 usually, sometimes a little more. The other measures, T4 and T3, are low when the thyroid is slow. Many endocrinologists think a TSH between 1 and 2 is a good target, but for me anything below 2 is horrible. I am extremely symptomatic. My best is around 2.5–3. If I relied on the doctors only for interpreting my tests I would never feel good and be a cardiac patient for racing heart, and a psych patient for inability to sleep wel, anxiety, and anger issues. Plus, I would be nearly bald on the top of my head.

If they give her synthroid and she has trouble stabilizing consider adding T3. Synthroid is just T4. I add a small dose of Armour thyroid, some people add the synthetic T3 Cytomel. I know this is a lot of information, but you will store it in the back of your mind for future use. Some doctors don’t believe in adding T3.

Thyroid medication must be taken on an empty stomach and you cannot take iron within four hours of the meds. This is extremely important. The med must be taken with water and she cannot eat for at least 30 minutes afterwards. If she has eaten she has to wait over two hours to take the medication to make sure her stomach is empty.

Juels's avatar

@JLeslie Great info!

I’d just add what to expect if/when your daughter does start taking thyroid medication. My daughter was diagnosed at 15 years old. The medication hit her hard for the first couple months. She was extremely emotional. Sometimes she felt like her heart was beating hard and she was a bit jumpy. She was worried that she was having a panic attack. Just try to be patient, it will pass. At first, she had a bit of insomnia but that has passed too. After more than a year, her periods have finally started to regulate, she’s lost 10 lbs, and grown more than an inch (we though she was done growing).

cazzie's avatar

@JLeslie gives quite good advice. Don’t panic over @Dan_Lyons comment about needing a balanced thyroid to ‘survive’ and the ‘killer herself’ if his mother stops taking them. It is not that dramatic, especially for under active thyroids. The thyroid homone system is slow to react to medications. It can take weeks for some people to begin to feel they are having some effect. Once the hormones are balanced and the person is feeling well again, going off the medication makes no sense. The drug taken is a replacement for the hormone missing in people with low functioning thyroids. Your daughter may feel a bit up and down to begin with but everything needs to get used to a new ‘normal’ and she should feel much healthier down the road a bit.

I have Graves Disease and go hyperactive sometimes. I take anti-thyroid meds to get it back under control and get my blood tested every 6 weeks to check it is all at the right levels. I can usually feel when I am getting a bit hyper. It feels icky, but it is far from lethal. I don’t seem to be as affected as other people with my Graves. The doctors don’t know why. We are all different, and react differently to our hormone levels, Like @JLeslie explained. I think it is very smart to see a specialist and have them explain your daughter’s condition. My GP sent me immediately to another GP with more knowledge about it and sent in a referral to a specialist, who I saw after a few weeks. (I got all sorts of special attention because my T4 was off the chart and my TSH was undetectable. They were amazed. LOL) I went on anti-thyroid meds right away and beta blockers to stop the heart palps I was getting. But after almost 20 years with this, I’ve never had a bad reaction to the meds, I never had high blood pressure or heart trouble and I successfully got preggers and gave birth to a healthy baby boy and breast fed.

kevbo's avatar

Same here as most above. Hypothyroid (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which indicates zero function) for 20 years and on thyroid medicine. I’ve had a handful of episodes in the past where I’ve stopped taking it, sometimes for months. The result is suffering on various levels—emotional, mental and physical. The best endocrinologists will dial in one’s personal “normal” even more precisely within the lab’s definition of “normal.”

I started out on the brand name and every doctor I talked to insisted I stay on it over the generic. Most recently, though and for whatever reason, I was put on the generic.

There’s a book that may be of some interest called The Thyroid Diet by Mary Shomon. May be worth a look.

Juels's avatar

@kevbo Were you on Levoxyl? I recently had to switch to the generic because of a recall on Levoxyl.

kevbo's avatar

No, Synthroid.

JLeslie's avatar

The deal with generics is there really shouldn’t be any problem with them. Doctors say the dose isn’t constant, but the dose is constant for that particular generic from that one manufacturer. People think the generic is no good because when they go from Synthroid to a generic they have trouble, but the trouble is the change, not the actual drug. Generics can have slightly higher or lower hormone than Synthroid. So, if you wind up using a generic, you have to stay with that very same generic. Your medicine bottle will say the manufacturer, check it to make sure you always get the same one. If you have to swicth then you have to check your blood levels within 8 weeks of starting the new “brand” to see if you are ok.

I was allergic to synthroid. Then I took Levoxyl for a while. On Levoxyl I took a combination of 77’s and 88’s. I had trouble swallowing them so I asked to be switched after taking it over a year. I switched to Unithroid and had to change my dose to 88’s and 100’s. I took that for many years. Then I tried Armour, but we think it was too much T3 for me. Now I take Unithroid and a small amount of Armour and it seems to be really good. It is the most constant my blood levels and symptoms (really lack of symptoms) I have ever been. I havea slow thyroid for about 10 years.

Juliasmile's avatar

Thank you all for the information. We did see a pediatric endocrinologists today and she was very helpful. She suggested a second blood test to make sure of my daughter’s level which was an 8.
For whatever reason her blood sugar level was not tested the first time around, even though that’s what I thought they were doing a fasting blood test to specifically check. She’s scheduled to have that done on Friday to check for diabetes also.
What did make me sad was when she was asked how often she has headaches, my daughter replied, “Isn’t that a normal thing?” Kind of feeling like a crappy mom for not doing something sooner. Just thought when she complained about a headache she was tired or being over dramatic. Grrrrr!
The good thing I did like about the doctor we saw today was that she spent the time to talk with us rather than throwing pills at the problem. It was almost like @JLeslie was her physician!
Again, thank you all so much for the info. Trying to find answers on the internet is a nightmare.
You’re good people!

cazzie's avatar

@Juliasmile I am so glad you saw a helpful specialist. Makes such a big difference. Don’t beat yourself up about the headache thing. We can second guess ourselves until the cows come home, but the bigger point is that you are getting her help now, and you have made friends on the net with some experience. I reached out to a help group online when I was diagnosed and it helped immensely. All the very best.

JLeslie's avatar

@Juliasmile Thanks for the update! I am so very glad your regular doctor referred you to the specialist and that she also wanted to recheck the test! 8 is high enough that your daughter probably is fairly affected by the slow thyroid. Your regular physician does get credit from for testing her thyroid, that is often overlooked in young people.

The headache is an interesting question, I don’t have that symptom, and neither does anyone else I know with hypothyroid. Maybe she was asking regarding the sugar, or maybe some people do have headaches with underactive thyroid? Regarding headaches, keep in mind caffeine withdrawal. Inconsistent caffeine intake can wreak havoc. It isn’t when you drink, it 24 hours later when you haven’t had your fix.

Let us know how it goes once she starts meds, assuming she will need meds.

SnoopyGirl's avatar

I am hypothyroid which means that I have an under active thyroid. Yes your daughter will need to be on thyroid meds. for life. My endocrinologist (Dr. who studies Diabetes and Thyroid) told me that your thyroid affects your whole body.

@Juliasmile Do you know what her blood test numbers were? That is always good to keep track of. You can call your Dr. and request the number. Take a look at this website. link It’s very helpful. The lady that writes the blog is Mary Shomon and she explains everything in great detail. You will feel more comfortable about the whole thing after reading her articles. If you have any questions, feel free to ask me. I’ve been hypothyroid for about 10 years now.

Seaofclouds's avatar

I’m a bit late jumping in, but just wanted to add a bit of information as well. One of my children was born with congenital hypothyroidism (under functioning thyroid). He has been on generic Synthroid since he was 3 weeks old. One of the biggest concerns is the role that the thryoid hormones play in growth and development. The pediatric endocrinologist explained to us that it is very important to make sure his levels are at the right level because otherwise it could effect his mental, physical, and psychological development.

It is great that you are seeing a specialist and having the labs retested. I hope you find a doctor you trust with this condition for your daughter. If your daughter does begin medication, she will need to follow up regularly with the doctor, especially during times of active growth. My son has had times when he would go for weekly checks of his level and now he goes every 3 months or so. He will be 3 this month. For him, this is all he’s ever known. Your daughter will have a time of adjusting to what’s going on and coming to terms with her new life. She may need someone to talk to in addition to the doctor for the thryoid problems. Good luck!

JLeslie's avatar

@Seaofclouds I had not even thought about how being diagnosed very young means having to get tested even more often because it is such a heavy time of growth, very interesting. GA.

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