Dr Renee Hoenderkamp has shared the main symptoms of hypothyroidism and what treatments are available to sufferers.
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland at the front of the neck, just below the Adam’s apple.
It makes a hormone called Thyroxine which is carried around the body and its affects work on nearly every single cell in the body.
The two important hormones made by the thyroid gland are thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3).
T4 is the less active form from which T3 is made. T3 is by far the most active thyroid hormone.
Thyroid hormones are responsible for the rate of metabolism within most cells. In effect, the hormones control how fast or slow the cells within the heart, brain, muscles, skin, bowel, liver and kidneys work, to name the main ones.
Essentially the thyroid gland is the motor of your entire body and therefore, when it goes wrong it affects many things and can be life-threatening if not treated.
The thyroid gland can be affected in different ways by numerous illnesses but usually results in one of two states: underactive (hypothyroidism) or overactive (hyperthyroidism).
Underactive thyroid: Symptoms of hypothyroidism revealed
Who gets hypothyroidism?
Approximately one in fifty women and one in 1,000 men develop hypothyroidism at some point in life.
It becomes more common with increasing age, however, it can occur at any age.
The main causes of an underactive thyroid are: Hashimoto’s disease, pituitary or hypothalamic failure, thyroid surgery or radioactive iodine treatment, treatment for hyperthyroidism, inability to absorb synthetic thyroxine adequately and lack of conversion from T4 to T3.
Once your thyroid starts to under produce thyroid hormone, you may develop symptoms including weight gain and loss of appetite, slow movements, thought and speech, pins and needles, breathlessness, dizziness, loss of libido, muscle and joint pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, dry and gritty eyes.
Other symptoms can include hoarse voice, difficulty swallowing, hair loss especially outer third of eyebrows, dry skin, loss of appetite, constipation, change in menstrual cycle for women, feel cold, tiredness and oversleeping.
Having an underactive thyroid can also increase your cholesterol and lead to heart disease.
Underactive thyroid: Symptoms of hypothyroidism include breathlessness
A blood test is the way the diagnosis is made
A blood test is the way the diagnosis is made. The test, called a thyroid function test, looks at levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and T4 in the blood.
A high level of TSH and a low level of T4 in the blood could indicate that you have hypothyroidism.
If the test results show raised TSH but normal T4, you may be at risk of developing an underactive thyroid in the future.
Your GP would normally manage this result for you unless you are under 16, pregnant, are taking a drug that is known to affect the thyroid or have just given birth and then you will likely be referred to an endocrinologist.
In the UK if your T4 is in range, doctors will accept a TSH level up to 10 without necessarily treating you.
This can leave patients feeling very unwell but being told that they are fine.
Underactive thyroids: There are many causes of hypothyroidism
If your GP decides to treat you they will prescribe a synthetic hormone tablet called Levothyroxine.
It is important to take this in the morning, on an empty stomach and not to eat or have caffeine containing drinks, iron or calcium supplements for an hour afterwards.
You will be started slowly and your blood test repeated every four to six weeks until they normalise and hopefully you feel better.
The majority of people do feel better on T4 alone.
However, some patients never feel back to their normal self on Levothyroxine alone even when their bloods appear to be in range.
Some do not convert the synthetic form of T4 to the more active T3 and they can feel very unwell. Doctors in the UK use the TSH and T4 blood tests and do not routinely measure T3.
But there is evidence that T3 is vitally important in wellbeing, despite T4/TSH blood readings.
As a result there are also plenty of patients who are on a combination treatment of both T4 and T3 tablets and who only feel normal on this combination.
Underactive thyroid: Tiredness can be a sign of hypothyroidism
Caters News Agency
1 of 33
Dr Renee Hoenderkamp said T3 is available in the UK on the NHS, but not everywhere. Some GPs won’t prescribe it even if you are very unwell without it.
Why has this happened?
Dr Hoenderkamp said: “The GP controlling bodies (CCG’s) use the lack of evidence as a reason for not prescribing T3.
“However NHS England is planning to review drugs which are ‘easily available to buy or have no evidence for effectiveness’ and they say that T3 is ‘clinically effective but there are cheaper options’.
“The cheaper option is T4 which does not work for many patients.
“From this statement it is clear that cost is the reason why some patients are now being denied T3 on the NHS. A few years ago T3 cost approximately £19 per month and now it is costing £260 plus per month.
“It is not difficult to see that the cost of someone not functioning in society is much more than the £260 plus per month that T3 is currently costing. And should it cost that much? In Europe it is easily available for around the £20 per month mark.”
Thyroid UK is campaigning to ensure that T3 is available on the NHS for all patients who need it.
Source : EXPRESS