If you don't take medications to treat thyroid disease, you can experience a number of serious long-term consequences. Some of the effects of skipping or stopping thyroid medication are obvious, while others are minor or may even go unnoticed for years.
Consequences of skipping thyroid hormone replacement
If you suffer from hypothyroidism, whether due to Hashimoto's treatments, Graves' disease, thyroid surgery, or congenital hypothyroidism , not taking thyroid hormone replacement medications can pose many risks to your health .
These risks include:
- Blood pressure disorders
- High cholesterol , including treatment-resistant high cholesterol and an increased risk of heart disease
- Low body temperature; constant feeling of cold
- Fatigue, muscle weakness, or joint pain.
- Memory problems
- Weight gain; inability to lose weight despite diet and exercise
- Infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth, or premature delivery
- Menstrual irregularities
- Loss or decrease of sexual desire
- Hair loss
- Swelling of the hands, feet, and face.
- Growth of thyroid nodules, enlargement of the goiter .
- Increased risk of infection.
Ultimately, if you are deprived of thyroid hormone for a long period of time, you risk a very dangerous condition – myxedematous coma, which can ultimately be fatal.
More importantly, if you've had thyroid cancer , you may face an increased risk of thyroid cancer recurrence if you don't take medications.
Consequences of not taking antithyroid drugs
If you have Graves' disease , toxic nodules, thyroiditis, or another cause of hyperthyroidism, you may need to take antithyroid medications such as methimazole or propylthiouracil / PTU. If you skip or stop taking a drug altogether, you can experience a number of short-term and long-term effects, including:
- Debilitating weight loss
- Strong increase in appetite and thirst.
- Nervousness, anxiety, panic attacks
- Heat intolerance, sweating
- Muscle fatigue or weakness
- Diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting
- Menstrual irregularities
- Goiter / enlarged thyroid gland
- Muscular weakness
- Fast pulse, heart palpitations, or high blood pressure
- Hair loss
- Bulging eyes
Untreated hyperthyroidism can increase your risk of stroke or heart attack. It can also increase your risk of developing a dangerous condition known as a thyroid storm, with a high death rate.
Causes and solutions
Obviously, there are good health reasons to take prescription thyroid medications. However, there are experiences that may make you question benefits, as well as preferences and circumstances that may affect how well you adhere to your medication plan.
If you are not taking thyroid medication for one or more of the following reasons, take this advice seriously so you can work toward changes that make you feel better and help solve your problems.
You don't feel better
Thyroid medications generally do not work quickly. It may take several days to several weeks before you begin to notice a difference in your feelings. If you don't feel better after taking the medicine for several months, you may need to adjust your dose or change your medicine instead of stopping it completely.
You experience new or worsening symptoms
If you have lived with untreated thyroid disease for many years, you may be used to living with symptoms . When you start taking medicine, your appetite may change, you may feel tired, or you may experience changes in your bowel movements.
Some thyroid medications can also cause hair loss , which is unpleasant and undesirable for most.
Discuss these issues with your doctor, as they may be due to normal thyroid hormone levels or even overtreatment of your condition. You may need a dose adjustment or other medicine.
Are you worried about side effects?
Keep in mind that the risk of serious side effects is extremely small and far less than the risks associated with no treatment. Side effects are also most likely during the first three months of treatment, so this is the time to be vigilant.
Can't afford to take medicine
Paying for medications can be stressful. Getting affordable health insurance if you don't already have it is a smart investment. If you have Medicare or Medicaid coverage, these plans must cover thyroid treatment.
It is difficult to remember to take a dose.
There are a number of strategies you can use to make sure you remember to take your thyroid medications . Your phone, computer, or other alarm can be set to be a daily reminder. You can keep your medicine prominently in your bedroom, bathroom, or kitchen, or you can use a pill organizer to keep you on track .
Do you prefer to use natural remedies?
Unfortunately, there is no natural or herbal substitute for thyroid hormone. Just like a person with type 1 diabetes needs insulin, you need thyroid hormone to survive. And there are no natural substitutes for antithyroid drugs.
Do you like how you feel about hyperthyroidism?
Hyperthyroidism can cause unwanted symptoms like anxiety and increased sweating. But it can also cause weight loss and a decreased need for sleep, something some welcome. While some overactive thyroid symptoms can occur more often than others, and even some of them can be helpful, it is important to know how stressful the condition is on your heart, bones, and overall health.
Feeling conflict over thyroid treatment
You must be involved in decisions about your treatment, and the key is how you feel about your medications and their effects. With thyroid disease, your symptoms can be a good reflection of how well the medicine is working. But all of the symptoms and side effects associated with thyroid disease can make it difficult to know if you feel better overall with or without thyroid medication.
Since you may have controversies about taking thyroid medications, it is a good idea to think about the reasons for the controversy, discuss those reasons with your healthcare provider, and fully understand the implications of untreated thyroid disease.
Get the word of drug information
Most people with thyroid problems feel better with the right medications. However, thyroid disease is complex and you may develop new symptoms when you start treatment, either from the wrong dose of the drug or the way your body compensates and responds to the drug. Sometimes it can take several months to adjust your medication, but the end result is worth it. Again, be sure to discuss any concerns with your doctor, and don't stop taking your medication without talking to her first.