10 Key Challenges of Living With Thyroid Disease

Doctors may repeatedly say that thyroid disease is “easy to diagnose, easy to treat,” or that “thyroid cancer is the good cancer,” but thyroid patients know that there are challenges inherent to living with thyroid disease. Let’s take a look at 10 key challenges you may face in living with thyroid disease.

1. Knowing All Your Hypothyroidism Treatment Options

Whether you have radioactive iodine (RAI) for Graves’ disease, a thyroidectomy for thyroid cancer, or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, you will almost always end up hypothyroid, which requires taking thyroid hormone replacement medication.

A key challenge, however, is in knowing that there are treatment options. Conventional physicians and endocrinologists often tell patients that there is only one treatment option: levothyroxine, the synthetic form of the T4 hormone. Brand names include Synthroid, Levoxyl, and Tirosint. There are, however, other medications and combinations that are also safe and effective options for hypothyroidism. You are not likely to hear about these options from most conventional physicians, however. These other treatment options include:

  • Levothyroxine plus T3 therapy, adding liothyronine (brand name is Cytomel), a synthetic form of T3, or a time-released compounded prescription liothyronine
  • Levothyroxine plus natural desiccated thyroid (NDT). NDT is a prescription thyroid created from the dried thyroid glands of pigs, and has been on the market for more than a century as a hypothyroidism treatment. It includes natural forms of both the T4 and T3 hormones. Some brand names include Nature-Throid and Armour Thyroid.
  • NDT-only therapy

On the nutritional front, there is also evidence that in a subset of people who still have a thyroid gland, but also have celiac disease, completely eliminating gluten from the diet may put their thyroid disease into remission, resolve symptoms, and eliminate the need for thyroid medication. Testing for celiac disease and gluten intolerance is not typically done by most conventional physicians or endocrinologists.

2. Knowing All Your Graves’ Disease/Hyperthyroidism Treatment Options

When you are diagnosed with Graves’ disease or hyperthyroidism, the tendency of many doctors in the U.S. is to immediately recommend that you have radioactive iodine ablation (RAI) treatment. Some practitioners call this the “Rush to RAI.”

RAI treatment involves taking a dose of radioactive iodine, which concentrates in your thyroid and destroys it, resolving your hyperthyroidism. RAI, however, usually results in lifelong hypothyroidism and the resulting need for thyroid hormone replacement medication.

Outside the U.S., however, doctors are more likely to try antithyroid drugs, which slow down your thyroid without permanently destroying it. Because as many as 30 percent of Graves’ disease and hyperthyroidism patients go into remission on antithyroid drugs, doctors outside the U.S. typically use drug treatment as a first-line therapy and recommend RAI if there is an allergy or sensitivity to the drugs, or the drugs are not effective at resolving the hyperthyroidism.

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