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Hypothyroidism: What You Need To Know

  
  
  

What is Hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism, also called “underactive thyroid,” is a condition, more common with women and those over 50, in which the thyroid does not produce and release the appropriate amounts of thyroid hormones. This is typically caused by a condition called thyroiditis in which the thyroid gland’s cells are damaged due to inflammation. Many different things can cause that initial inflammation:

  • Pregnancyhypothyroidism

  • Birth defect

  • Cancer treatment (radiation)

  • A cold or respiratory infection

  • An immune system attack on the thyroid gland itself

  • Many other conditions and treatments

When people have hypothyroidism, their doctors typically recommend lifelong thyroid hormone replacement therapy. Too high a dosage of thyroid hormone can be dangerous, though, and may cause a variety of acute and/or gradually worsening symptoms:

  • Excessive sweating

  • Shaking

  • Restlessness

  • Heart palpitations

  • Sudden weight loss

With so many potential negative side effects, it is important that patients be mindful of the risks so they can watch for symptoms and discuss any such issues with their doctors. Too low a dose can also be a major problem, causing a Myxedema coma. Such a coma is a major medical emergency and requires immediate medical attention, often including life support and intensive care treatment. 

Because of the sudden and serious nature of some of the side effects of thyroid hormone replacement therapy, for people with hypothyroidism, medical IDs are a real necessity. They help make first responders aware of one’s condition(s), medications, and any additional or complicating factors. 

What Should I Engrave On My Hypothyroidism Medical Alert Bracelet?

Because your hormone therapy may change with time, it's a good idea to list the therapy on your medical ID bracelet and carry a wallet card with the current specifics. You can download a FREE wallet card here. Here are a few suggestions for engraving your hypothyroidism medical alert jewelry:

AMY JOHNSON

HYPOTHYROIDISM NKABirdie Medical ID Bracelet

ON HORMONE THERAPY

SEE WALLET CARD

ICE: 333.444.5555

 

~OR~

 

FRANK JONES

HYPOTHYROIDISM: HRT

ALGYS: LATEX, SULFA

SEE WALLET CARD

ICE: 222.333.4444

 

Do you wear a Lauren's Hope medical alert bracelet for your hypothyroidism? We want to hear from you

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Comments

Thanks for the good info about dealing with hypothyroidism. It can be very scary to deal with but articles like this can help ease some of the anxiety.
Posted @ Thursday, June 27, 2013 8:56 PM by Rhiannon
I think there are a few very misleading things in your article here. The long term effects of too much replacement are much scarier than the short term effects. These include, but are not limited to, permanent bone loss and serious cardiac events. Also, myxedema coma is one of the most rare happenings in medicine. I work with an endocrinologist and in his 8 years of practice he's seen it once. Others with dozens of years have seen it less than a hand full of times. It would take months without taking any replacement to reach the point of myxedema coma and there are blaring symptoms before you reach this stage.  
 
Furthermore, going a few days to weeks without medication will not do permanent damage, so a medic alert isn't vital with thyroid disorders. I feel that if people start wearing them for minor medical conditions, people who wear them for serious and life threatening problems will become less well noticed. Boy who cries wolf, for example.  
 
Lauren's Hope, I love your message and what you do, but this one disappointed me.
Posted @ Tuesday, July 16, 2013 8:49 AM by abby
I'm a nurse, I work in the ER and the ICU, I'm also a practicing paramedic. It doesn't hurt to have a bracelet, necklace, shoe tag, etc. In fact, I recommend it. At the very least keep an updated wallet card. But realize your wallet/purse may not make it to the hospital with you. I've noticed that some are now getting tattoos, I would not recommend them, they are not effective. 
 
Back to the thyroid, In particular some of the T3 only thyroid meds have a short half life of hours, not days, not weeks. Which is why patients on T3 only meds multi-dose several times per day. T4 and T4/T3 combination meds have a longer half life. Any time without your thyroid meds will cause problems, particularly for those who do not have a thyroid. 
 
I find it particularly disturbing that someone who works in the controlled environment of an office wants to discourage people from wearing medic alert bracelets, and to refer to it as crying wolf, is ABSOLUTELY REPREHENSIBLE!! You obviously have no idea what it is like on the emergency end of the spectrum in which people can't speak for themselves or may be unconscious for days... I do!! I need all the information I can get to save lives and help people to heal in the best way possible. SHAME ON YOU!!
Posted @ Tuesday, July 16, 2013 10:17 AM by Medic, ER & ICU Nurse
Hi Medic,ER and ICU nurse, 
 
Thanks for bringing up that point. You're right, I haven't worked in any emergent situations. I am an RN in an endocrinology office, so I know first hand how non-emergent missing thyroid medication is - even without a thyroid. We specifically hold thyroid medication for weeks to months for some patients before testing. I also know that any doctor worth their salt will order simple, cheap thyroid tests if any of the symptoms are present so it wouldn't be very long until it is realized. T3 is a non-essential medication, and therefore going without it is fine. People take T3 to feel better, not to stay alive.  
 
Thanks for pointing out that I shouldn't discourage medic alerts - that was me over reacting as someone with Type 1 diabetes who wants my bracelet to mean something, and not have everyone with every tiny medical condition wearing one. I hope you can understand where I'm coming from.  
 
Abby
Posted @ Tuesday, July 16, 2013 10:21 AM by abby
Abby, if you think T3 is a non essential thyroid medication to those without a thyroid you need to recheck your facts. People who don't have a thyroid will die without hormone replacement. I do understand where you are coming from. Medic alert id's always mean something. Just because a few more people have them doesn't mean that yours won't get looked at.
Posted @ Tuesday, July 16, 2013 10:45 AM by Medic, ER & ICU Nurse
T4 (or levothyroxine/synthroid/levoxyl, etc) gets turned into T3 in the body at the . By everyone. With very FEW exceptions - although you may see those exceptions because if you are not converting T4 to T3 you will be in the ICU. I think that is the difference of what we are saying.  
 
I have been an RN in endocrinology for almost two years, I do know my facts. This is why Nurses need to work together from different specialties. I'm glad to learn that you will pay close attention to every medic alert. It makes me glad I wear one.
Posted @ Tuesday, July 16, 2013 10:54 AM by Abby
I don't have a thyroid. My doc told me to get a bracelet because I take Cytomel 4 times a day. If I miss one dose I feel it. So a day or two without it would be bad news for me!
Posted @ Tuesday, July 16, 2013 10:55 AM by Jill
Abby, yes, the liver converts T4 to T3 but not efficiently or not at all in some patients. Which may be caused by liver disease, iron deficiency or something else. The very few exceptions is not accurate though, many, many thyroid patients have this problem. That's why there is Cytomel which is T3 only. Many endo's won't prescribe Cytomel because of the short half life, and prefer to prescribe other meds with T4. The reason you wouldn't be aware of this is that those that need T3 go elsewhere when the doc refuses to help them. There is a movement with many websites and books devoted to this very issue. They keep long lists of recommended doctors who will work with their patients on this. I take it your office doesn't prescribe T3, which is why you aren't familiar with it??
Posted @ Tuesday, July 16, 2013 11:09 AM by Medic, ER & ICU Nurse
We prescribe quite a bit of Cytomel (as well as armour and everything else under the sun), and it's always for people who have had their labs repeated many times and their T3 total and free are always normal. Or I should say almost always. There are always exceptions. All of our docs will prescribe it at safe doses, it's our patients who want more than safe doses who end up leaving.
Posted @ Tuesday, July 16, 2013 11:28 AM by abby
Abby, I understand you are a relatively new nurse, and as nurses we can only do what the doctors tell us. Which is why I prefer paramedicine, but my best advice to you is, listen to and advocate for your patients. If they say something is not right then it's not right, regardless of where the ink dot falls in the range.
Posted @ Tuesday, July 16, 2013 11:56 AM by Medic, ER & ICU Nurse
I have to agree with Medic here. As a nurse, the more info I have, the better I can treat. Just because a test or machine says everything is perfect doesn't mean it is. We had a patient just this week with an SPO2 of 98%, c/o shortness of breath. She had no signs or symptoms and was sent home. It wasn't long, and EMS brought her back in - cyanotic. Listening to the patient is one of the easiest skills to loose. We tend to believe the test results and not what is sitting in front of us.
Posted @ Tuesday, July 16, 2013 2:32 PM by Allison
Hi ladies!  
 
Thanks so much for chiming in with your thoughts on these very important issues. We're so glad that you can have an open discourse here on the Lauren's Hope blog and learn from one another's perspectives.  
 
We feel that the more people who wear medical alert jewelry, the more common it becomes, the more routinely everyone will know to check for it, and that helps keep us all safer, which is what we all want.  
 
As always, we welcome your comments and the valuable input from your experiences!  
 
Thank you, 
Tara
Posted @ Tuesday, July 16, 2013 3:46 PM by Tara Cohen
Comments have been closed for this article.
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