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How do medications treat hypothyroidism?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

Synthetic thyroxine, a thyroid hormone replacement drug, is the primary medicine used to treat hypothyroidism. It compensates for the body's inability to produce naturally a sufficient level of thyroid hormone. This drug must be used every day for life, even once symptoms are relieved. Synthetic thyroxine brings TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) levels back to normal.

Dr. Marina Johnson
Endocrinologist

Levothyroxine, also called T4, is the main hormone produced by the thyroid gland. T4 is a storage form of thyroid hormone. When the cells need thyroid hormone, T4 must be converted to T3 (liothyronine.) Physicians can treat hypothyroidism by replacing T4 and/or T3, as tablets taken daily 30 to 60 minutes before breakfast. Hypothyroidism is typically treated with T4 and works well because the body is able to convert it to T3 on an “as needed” basis. Some individuals have problems adequately converting T4 to T3 and may require a combination of both T4 and T3 replacement. It’s important to monitor thyroid hormone levels, free T4, free T3 and TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) to determine the optimal dose for that individual.

Dr. Susie Whitworth, PhD
Nursing Specialist

Hypothyroidism is treated with thyroid hormone medications, such as Synthroid or Lovoxyl. Some supplements reduce the amount of thyroid hormone absorbed and should be avoided while taking thyroid medications. These supplements include calcium and iron.

Certain medications treat hyperthyroidism by suppressing the thyroid gland. These medications include methimazole and propylthiouracil. Beta blockers, such as propranolol, can often be used to help with symptoms of an overactive thyroid.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.