Hypothyroidism- diagnosis and treatment



This is a common condition that we see every day in the pharmacy. Patients do not always get their diagnosis straight away as the symptoms can be confused with many other conditions. If you feel you might be suffering from this condition you should contact your GP or your pharmacist. It can be easily diagnosed with a blood test.


Hypothyroidism is the clinical term for an under active thyroid. The thyroid gland is located in the throat and makes hormones that control growth and metabolism. It is a condition where the thyroid gland does not produce enough of certain hormones. It is most common in women over 50 but can affect younger women and men as well. In the early stages people may not notice any difference but offer time hypothyroidism can cause problems such as weight gain, infertility, joint issues and heart issues.


Other symptoms that can occur may include tiredness, a hoarse voice, puffy face, unexplained weight gain, constipation, increased sensitivity to cold, muscle weakness, irregular or heavy periods, brittle nails and depression.


There are different causes of hypothyroidism such as autoimmune conditions, treatment for hyperthyroidism, radiation therapy or certain medications.


In order to be sure that you have hyperthyroidism your GP will perform a blood test. This blood test looks for levels of TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) and the hormone Thyroxine. If the thyroid gland is not producing enough Thyroxine, the body reacts by increasing the amount of TSH in the blood. Therefore if your GP sees that you have low levels of Thyroxine and high levels of TSH they may start treatment for hypothyroidism.


The most common treatment choice in Ireland is Levothyroxine (Eltroxin). It is normal to begin treatment on a low dose of Levothyroxine to assess how you react to the medication. It is important to get regular blood test initially to ascertain how your body reacts to the medication. Once the correct dose of Levothyroxine is reached you should continue to get a blood test once a year to ensure your TSH levels remain constant. Hypothyroidism is a lifelong condition. If you do not show any symptoms your GP may decide not to start medication but will monitor your TSH levels regularly.


In terms of lifestyle modifications, it’s important to eat a balanced diet. It also helps to exercise regularly, get enough sleep and to get fresh air and relaxation. If you do start medication always remind your pharmacist or GP that you are taking thyroid medication. Levothyroxine can interact with other medications including some over the counter remedies.


If you are concerned about hypothyroidism you call into your pharmacy for advice.