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When Patients Won't Take Their Thyroid Medication

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Updated May 30, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

When Patients Won't Take Their Thyroid Medication

If you don't take your prescribed thyroid medications, there may be implications for your health

"I have side effects I don't like when I take the medication."
If you are experiencing unwanted side effects, your first stop is your doctor. You may need a dosage change, or even a different medication, to avoid certain side effects.

"I can't remember to take it every day.
If you can remember to brush your teeth everyday, you can remember to take your thyroid medication. If the main reason you're not taking your medication is that you just can't remember your pill every day, it's time to figure out a way to ensure you take your medication. You'll find a number of helpful suggestions in 10 Creative Ways to Remember to Take Your Thyroid Pill. So many people also have smart phones these days, and most of our phones and organizers can be programmed to give us a daily reminder call or alarm. This may be just what you need to remember to take your medication.

"I'm worried about the side effects of antithyroid drugs."
Certainly, keep in mind that the risk of serious side effects is extremely small, and far less than the risks of remaining hyperthyroid. They are also most likely to occur within the first three months of treatment, so that is the time to be most vigilant. If you develop a sore throat or fever, or other signs or symptoms of infection in those first few months, contact your doctor right away. If you are on long-term antithyroid drug therapy, you may wish to ask your doctor to regularly schedule bloodwork to evaluate your white blood cell count as well.

Also, any serious risks from antithyroid drugs are reduced even more with lower dosages of these drugs. One option, if you're concerned, is to consider complementing the antithyroid drug regimen with a natural antithyroid protocol. Richard Shames, MD has outlined a protocol -- which includes a variety of herbs, supplements, minerals and foods known to slow down the thyroid -- in the book Living Well With Graves' Disease and Hyperthyroidism.

"I actually like how I feel when I'm hyperthyroid." -
Some patients do like the feeling of being hyperthyroid, but unfortunately, they may not realize the strain this condition is putting on their heart, bones, and overall health. Liking the feeling of hyperthyroidism is not unlike being addicted to a stimulant such as nicotine. Unfortunately, hyperthyroidism, like smoking, can have serious consequences to your health. Some patients who like this feeling of being hyperstimulated may have underlying adrenal fatigue or exhaustion that should be addressed. The article on Adrenal Fatigue/Adrenal Exhaustion has more information.

Moving Forward

Ultimately, if you aren't comfortable taking your thyroid medication, the solution may lie in getting a new thyroid doctor. Having a practitioner you can trust may help you get on track with the right treatment. You may also want to read these reader comments about not taking thyroid medication. Sometimes people who have been there have the best words of wisdom.

Sources:

Braverman, MD, Lewis E., and Robert D. Utiger, MD. Werner and Ingbar's The Thyroid: A Fundamental and Clinical Text. 9th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins (LWW), 2005.

Drugstore.com -- Thyroid medication drug prices

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