The thyroid is one of the most important endocrine glands of the body. It produces three hormones, the principal one being thyroxine (the other two hormones are triiodothyronine and thyrocalcitonin), which help regulate the body’s metabolism. This means that an increase in the amount of any of these hormones accelerates the biochemical processes that provide energy, and stimulate the growth and repair of the tissues. A decrease in any of the thyroid hormones, on the other hand, retards all these biochemical processes.
One of the diseases that affects the thyroid, which is aptly referred to as a hormonal disorder, is thyroiditis. This hormonal disorder, in turn, has at least three conditions under it: acute thyroiditis, subacute thyroiditis, and chronic thyroiditis. The latter condition actually includes a small group of chronic diseases (standing out from this group is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis) in which the thyroid becomes enlarged. In chronic thyroiditis, the functioning thyroid tissue is gradually supplanted by connective tissue and at times partially by lymphocytes (cells, specifically a type of white blood cells, that play a role in immunity).
Occurring more frequently in women than in men, chronic thyroiditis results in the decrease of the function of the thyroid, particularly its inadequate production of thyroxine. In other cases of chronic thyroiditis, the thyroxine produced by the thyroid is of poor quality. In either case, the thyroid may be about twice its normal size and is of firm consistency. Persons with chronic thyroiditis complain of fatigue.
Treatment of chronic thyroiditis consists of taking thyroid hormone to compensate for the inadequate production of the thyroid. One of the drugs often prescribed by doctors to treat chronic thyroiditis is that which goes by the generic name “levothyroxine sodium” (an example is the brand name Synthroid of Abbott Laboratories). As a thyroid hormone replacement, levothyroxine sodium is an apt prescription as it is proven to be effective in addressing the low output of thyroxine from the thyroid.
Those with hypertension or heart disease should not use levothyroxine sodium unless clearly indicated and supervised by a doctor. Some of the most common side effects of using levothyroxine sodium are rapid heartbeat or abnormal heart rhythms, chest pains, headache, tremor (experienced particularly in the hands), diarrhea, weight loss, sweating, nervousness, and inability to sleep. By adjusting the dose of the medication, these symptoms may be checked.
The usual dose, initially, of levothyroxine sodium is as little as 25 micrograms per day. Depending upon the patient’s response, the doctor may increase it in steps of 25 micrograms once every three weeks. Finally, if so required to achieve normal function, the doctor will further increase the dose to 100 to 200 micrograms per day. Again, any increase in dose should be made only upon the specific instruction of a doctor.
Symptoms of an overdose of levothyroxine sodium include irritability, sweating, headache, chest pains, nervousness, rapid heartbeat, unusual stomach rumbling (may or may not be accompanied by cramps), heart failure, and shock. A patient taking this drug who manifests any of these signs should be brought to a hospital emergency room right away.
1. “Hormone Replacement” (originally published by the Thyroid Society for Education and Research Inc.), on Thyroid Australia Ltd. (online) – http://www.thyroid.org.au/ThySoc/ThySocReplce.html
2. “Chronic thyroiditis (Hashimoto’s disease)”, on Medline Plus Medical Encyclopedia (online) – http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000371.htm
3. “Thyroid Hormones (Systemic)”, on Drugs.com – http://www.drugs.com/mmx/levothyroxine-sodium.html