Back in May, I had my thyroid tested on advice from my doctor at Breakspear Medical. Despite having had numerous thyroid tests previously, I decided it was worth retesting. I hadn’t tested in a couple of years but I was still expecting yet another ‘normal’ result. However, this time, my result showed an underactive thyroid. You can read more about the results of my thyroid test here.
Getting Treatment For My Underactive Thyroid Was Not Straightforward
I had tested my thyroid through Medichecks and decided to pursue treatment from the NHS rather than Breakspear. I figured that I would see my GP and either be handed a prescription or referred to an endocrinologist.
The latter happened but, unfortunately, my referral was refused. This was based on the fact that the NHS endocrinologist concluded that I did not need treatment. The reason for this; my TSH was normal. I had low TT4, low FT4 and low FT3 (all thyroid hormones). I was also positive for thyroglobulin antibodies. But, it was the TSH the decision was based on, nothing else seemed to matter.
Seeing A Private Endocrinologist For A Second Opinion
Not satisfied with this, I sought a second opinion from a private endocrinologist. She agreed that– based on my symptoms– it was worth trying a small dose of Levothyroxine to see if it helped me. Although my TSH was technically normal, I was told that it was the higher end of normal. Bringing it down could help me to feel better and, of course, all the other hormones were too low as well.
I have now been taking Levothyroxine around two months. So, I thought I would write an update and let you know how I have been finding it.
Treating My Underactive Thyroid with Levothyroxine
Having an underactive thyroid (or hypothyroidism) essentially means that the thyroid gland is not producing enough hormones. The first port of call for treatment is a drug called Levothyroxine. Levothyroxine is a synthetic T4 hormone replacement (one of the thyroid hormones).
I was thankfully able to get this on prescription from the NHS based on the recommendations from the private endocrinologist. I was prescribed a small dose; only 25mcg. This was because there wasn’t a huge amount of leeway in my blood work.
How A Normal Thyroid Functions
Normally, the pituitary gland in the brain releases a hormone called ‘thyroid stimulating hormone’ (TSH). This hormone stimulates the thyroid to produce the hormone thyroxine (T4). Your body then converts T4 into T3, which is the form of hormone that your body actually uses.
There is a feedback loop, so when there are enough thyroid hormones the pituitary gland is ‘told’ to stop producing as much TSH. Conversely, if there aren’t enough thyroid hormones, the pituitary will be ‘told’ to release more TSH. Clever stuff, huh?
Why There Wasn’t A Lot Of Scope With My Results
I was put on a small dose of Levothyroxine as there was not a huge amount of scope within my blood work. The idea behind treating with Levothyroxine is that it could help to increase the levels of total T4 (TT4), free T4 (FT4) and, hopefully, free T3 (FT3). Plus, reduce the levels of TSH to the lower end of ‘normal’. However, it’s a delicate balance
If I was given too much Levothyroxine, my pituitary would be told to stop producing TSH. This would result in my body no longer producing thyroid hormones naturally. This is something we obviously didn’t want to happen.
My Blood Results Have Improved
Due to this delicate balancing act, my endocrinologist wanted to retest my thyroid every month. I have had two blood tests now, both of which I did through Medichecks. I’ve found Medichecks to be great. They are very reasonably priced and their tests can either be done at home or a clinic. They also always put their thyroid tests on offer each Thursday.
Both of my recent test results are looking good. All my hormones are well within normal range now. My TSH is now at the lower end of ‘normal’ and my TT4, FT4 and FT3 have all increased to be well within normal range (they’ve all pretty much at least doubled!). I also no longer test positive for antibodies.
I am therefore okay to stay on the same dose of Levothyroxine (many start on a small dose and increase it if necessary).
I Feel Fortunate That Levothyroxine Has Helped Me
Before I go on to say how I’ve been feeling and chat about my symptoms, I just want to point something out. Levothyroxine does not help everyone. Thankfully, it has for me and the reason will be because my body has no trouble converting T4 to T3.
Remember how I said it is T3 that your body actively uses? Some people have problems with their thyroid because their body struggles to convert T4 into T3. In this case, treatment with both T3 and T4 is required. Many prefer desiccated thyroid treatments (which contain both hormones) for this reason.
How My Symptoms Have Changed Since Treating My Underactive Thyroid
When it comes to treatment, I believe how we feel counts more than what a blood test says. My blood tests may look good, but have I noticed any changes? Thankfully, I can say yes. I have definitely seen improvements since I started taking Levothyroxine.
The changes in my symptoms were initially subtle and slow. As the weeks have gone on, I’ve come to realise just how much I have benefitted. I’ve seen improvements in some symptoms that I felt were caused by my Fibromyalgia. But now, I’m wondering if my thyroid has been the main perpetrator!
Symptoms That Have Improved
Levothyroxine has definitely helped to improve my sleep. I am falling asleep much easier and I sleep better through the night. Some nights my head hits the pillow and I don’t wake again until the next morning! Which, when you have Fibromyalgia and Lyme disease, is quite frankly amazing. I still have the occasional poor night’s sleep but I can’t complain.
2. Waking up is much easier
I am naturally waking up around 8 o’clock. Mornings, while still not my favourite, have been less challenging recently. Again, there are still the odd days where I struggle more than others. But, prior to taking Levothyroxine, waking up was very hard to do! My alarm would go off at 9 am and I’d literally want to fall straight back asleep. So this is definitely a welcome change.
3. I feel less anxious
I was feeling anxious a lot of the time before I started Levothyroxine. For no reason at all! It was horrible. Thankfully, I feel less anxious and more calm and relaxed since taking Levothyroxine.
4. My mood has improved
I was having some bad mood swings before I started treatment for my underactive thyroid. I would be overcome with rage over the silliest of things. Which, I have to say, is very unlike me! I also felt really down at times and generally not like myself. Thankfully, my mood has definitely improved and feels more stable.
5. My better days are even better
I would say that I have felt more well in myself and a little more energised on my better days. I swear that the Levothyroxine must be one of the reasons why I did so well when I was in London recently. Conversely, I don’t feel as ill or as fatigued during the bad days… which still happen. There’s no miracle here folks, I can still feel rather crap! Just less so than before, which I’ll happily take.
I have really struggled with pain at times this year… which you may have guessed by the number of pain-relieving gadgets and supplements I’ve been reviewing over the course of 2016! While pain can still be a problem for me (especially in my lower back), I’ve seen an improvement in the general all-over aching-type pain. It’s basically what I would have described as my fibromyalgia pain; the type that is constant and wears you down. It hasn’t disappeared but there’s been a definite improvement there. It’s definitely been taken down a notch or two.
How I Feel About Levothyroxine
I feel it’s positive that I have seen these improvements with Levothyroxine. It’s amazing to think how much a small dose has actually helped me. Previously, I would have blamed Fibromyalgia for many of the symptoms I listed above. Now, I question whether an underactive thyroid has played more of a role than I realised.
However, I feel it’s important to share that Levothyroxine hasn’t been some miracle cure. It has simply been a positive step towards lessening the severity of and improving some of my symptoms. I am still sick but, the way I see it, my body has one less ‘energy drain’ to deal with. Supporting my thyroid has definitely been a positive step in my healing.
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