Front view of neck showing thyroid.

You have hypothyroidism. This means your thyroid gland is not making enough thyroid hormone. This hormone is vital to body growth and metabolism. If you don’t make enough, many body processes slow down. This can cause symptoms throughout the body. Hypothyroidism can range from mild to severe. The most severe form is called myxedema.

There are a number of causes of hypothyroidism. A common cause is Hashimoto’s disease. This disease causes the body’s own immune system to attack the thyroid gland. When you have certain treatments, such as surgery to remove the thyroid gland, this can also cause hypothyroidism. Sometimes the thyroid gland is not functioning because of lack of stimulation from the pituitary gland.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism can include:

  • Fatigue

  • Trouble concentrating or thinking clearly; forgetfulness

  • Dry skin

  • Hair loss

  • Weight gain

  • Low tolerance to cold

  • Constipation

  • Depression

  • Personality changes

  • Tingling or prickling of the hands or feet

  • Heavy, absent, or irregular periods (women only)

Older adults may sometimes have other symptoms. These can include:

  • Muscle aches and weakness

  • Confusion

  • Incontinence (unable to control urine or stool)

  • Trouble moving around

  • Falling

Treatment for hypothyroidism involves taking thyroid hormone pills daily. These pills replace the hormone your thyroid doesn’t make. You will likely need to take a daily pill for the rest of your life. Tips for taking this medicine are given below.

Home care

Tips for taking your medicine

  • Take your thyroid hormone pills as prescribed by your healthcare provider. This is most often 1 pill a day on an empty stomach. Use a pillbox labeled with the days of the week. This will help you remember to take your pill each day.

  • Don’t take products that contain iron and calcium or antacids within 4 hours of taking your thyroid hormone pills.

  • Don’t take other medicines with your thyroid hormone pill without checking with your provider first.

  • Tell your provider if you have any side effects from your medicines that bother you, especially any chest pain or irregular heartbeats.

  • Never change the dosage or stop taking your thyroid pills without talking to your provider first.

General care

  • Always talk with your provider before trying other medicines or treatments for your thyroid problem.

  • If you see other healthcare providers, be sure to let them know about your thyroid problem.

  • Let your healthcare provider know if you become pregnant because your dose of thyroid hormone will need to be adjusted.

Follow-up care

See your healthcare provider for checkups as advised. You may need regular tests to check the level of thyroid hormone in your blood.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • New symptoms develop

  • Symptoms return, continue, or worsen even after treatment

  • Extreme fatigue

  • Puffy hands, face, or feet

  • Fast or irregular heartbeat

  • Confusion

Call 911

Call 911 if any of these occur:

  • Fainting

  • Chest pain

  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing

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