Kristin O'Meara is a freelance writer who has subclinical hypothyroidism. She was diagnosed in April of 2001, and has volunteered to share her story as a case study in order to help others dealing with this problem.
Since I wrote installment #3 of my story, several readers wanted to know exactly what I said to convince my doctor that a switch to Armour thyroid was warranted. Apparently, a number of readers have been turned down by their doctors, and wanted to arm themselves with more information on the subject before trying again. Most of the information here is located elsewhere on the site, but I've put this sample letter together in the hopes that interested folks can use this as sort of a Mad Libs for grownups, filling in the blanks with their own words.
For an overview of medications used to treat hypothyroidism, please check out Mary's excellent resource at http://thyroid.about.com/cs/thyroiddrugs/index.htm.
While I'm not a doctor and can't determine the proper treatment of anyone with hypothyroidism, I would suggest that if you are interested in switching to Armour thyroid, contact the manufacturer, Forest Pharmaceuticals. They are very helpful, and you can request information on the product, so you are fully informed about the medication you plan to take.
Here's the contact information, also on listed elsewhere on this site: Forest Pharmaceuticals, Professional Affairs Department, 13600 Shoreline Drive, St Louis, MO 63045, Phone: 1-800-678-1605, Ext. 7301, Fax: 314-493-7457; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Website: www.forestpharm.com; Manufactures: Armour Thyroid, Thyrolar and Levothroid.
Every time that I consult with my doctor, I plan to write a very specific letter describing our latest steps and their results; any new information I have found that is relevant to the course of treatment I wish to pursue (including full references to any studies or doctors I cite), and a request for that course of action. By formalizing the process, I'm sending a clear signal that I expect to be taken seriously. So far, it seems to have had a positive effect when I'm at the office.
Good luck to all. Stay tuned for Episode 4!
Dear Doctor Wonderful,
As you know, I've been taking xx medication for xx months/years now, to treat hypothyroidism. (You can refer to recent test values here, with TSH, free T3 and free T4 measurements, and how they compare with previous tests.)
Although the medication has helped alleviate some symptoms, I am still experiencing specific difficulties. (Here's where I provide a revoltingly detailed account of everything that's wrong with me. Go ahead and make it official -- put all your symptoms in writing here.)
(If new symptoms have appeared, make sure to list them. If you think your current medication may be causing the symptoms, please make a note of the specific date you started on your medication, and demonstrate that your new symptoms started around the same time. Putting this information in writing now will save you a lot of headaches later.)
I'm encouraged by reports that I've read about the successful use of another drug, Armour thyroid. As you know, it's a natural product manufactured from the thyroids of grain-fed pigs. Several reports that I've read were particularly encouraging, and I want to share them with you.
A 1999 article in the New England Journal of Medicine (1999;340:424-429, 469-470), stated that the addition of T3 works better than levothyroxine alone in several measurable areas, including improvements in mood and brain function.
Not all tissues that need thyroid hormone are equally able to convert thyroxine to triiodothyronine, the active form of the hormone. But most patients with hypothyroidism (reduced thyroid function) are treated only with thyroxine. In the New England Journal study, on 6 of 17 measures of mood and cognition -- a catchall term that refers to language, learning and memory -- the patients scored better after receiving a combination of T4 and T3. As you know, Armour Thyroid is a natural drug that combines T4 and T3.
Dr. Joseph Mercola, an osteopathic physician who is board certified in family medicine, runs the Optimal Wellness Center, located outside Chicago in Schaumburg, Illinois. Mercola prefers to treat his hypothyroid patients with dessicated pig thyroid products like Armour Thyroid over synthetic preparations. "It is my experience the vast majority of individuals seem to empirically do better on natural hormones, rather than synthetic ones. I can't provide a definitive explanation for this observation. It may be related to the fact that the natural hormones also have T1 and T2. Little is said about these forms of thyroid hormones, but they may have some influence on optimizing thyroid function." (Dr. Mercola's entire interview).
Carol Roberts, MD, is Director of Wellness Works, a medical practice that specializes in integrated treatment of chronic disease, states: "The ideal thyroid replacement would be natural human thyroid in exactly the right proportions. However, since this is not currently available I use the dessicated animal product because it seems to work well for most patients, much better certainly than synthetic T4 alone (Synthroid)." (Dr. Roberts' entire interview.)
As it stands, my symptoms are not fully relieved by the medication I'm taking, and I'd like to try Armour thyroid to see if it will alleviate more of my symptoms.