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Thyroid Diseases

Must I Take Replacement Hormones for Hypothyroidism?

03/20/2006

Question:

I have hypothyroidism. Can I live without replacment hormones or will I become sick without them?

Answer:

If your hypothyroidism is very mild you may not notice any difference in how you feel off thyroid hormone. However, there is evidence that some patients with even mild hypothyroidism may feel more tired or cold when they stop the thyroid pill.  There is also evidence that even mild hypothyroidism leads to small but significant increases in your cholesterol level and decreases in heart function. 

On the other hand, if your hypothyroidism is severe, you would probably start to feel pretty bad within 2-6 weeks of stopping the pill.  The symptoms could include feeling tired, cold, achey, and constipated with dry skin, hair loss, muscle cramps, hoarseness, and swelling.  Death would not necessarily occur, but being severely hypothyroid does mildly increase your risk of developing a condition called "myxedema coma" which has a high mortality rate.

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Response by:

Thomas A Murphy, MD, FACP, FACE Thomas A Murphy, MD, FACP, FACE
Associate Professor of Medicine
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University