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Synthroid (levothyroxine) is a synthetic form of thyroxine, a hormone naturally produced by the thyroid. The medication is used when the thyroid is unable to produce sufficient quantities of the hormone due to injury, medications or abnormalities. This condition of insufficient hormone production is commonly called hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid.
The medication is also used to treat goiter in some situations, and may prevent the need for surgery.
Synthroid replaces the hormone thyroxine in the body; it does not improve thyroid function in any way. While other measures may be taken to resolve the underlying thyroid issue, Synthroid provides relief from the often unpleasant and sometimes dangerous symptoms of an underactive thyroid in the interim:
As the above symptoms may have many causes that do not involve an underactive thyroid, the condition should be diagnosed before initiating treatment with Synthroid. Too much thyroxine can be every bit as dangerous as too little.
In otherwise healthy adults who have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, treatment is roughly as follows:
There are many factors which may influence treatment, including the severity of the hypothyroidism, age, weight, other medications being taken, and so forth. Ideally there should be regular doctor exams throughout treatment to make dosage adjustments if needed.
Warnings and Side Effects
There are a wide range of foods, vitamins, supplements and other medications, including non-prescription, which may interfere with Synthroid. Some interactions can produce dangerous side effects, while others may reduce the effectiveness of one of the medications involved. If in doubt, ask a doctor or pharmacist, or wait at least 4 hours after taking Synthroid before consuming the product in question. A very short list of potential Synthroid interactions includes:
Most side effects associated with Synthroid are mild and stop occurring within the first month of treatment:
The above side effects are not cause for concern unless severe or persistent beyond one month of treatment.
Rarely more dangerous side effects may develop, particularly if dosage is too high. It may take a week to 10 days after a dosage change for adverse effects to be noticeable, so patients should be alert for:
If the above symptoms are noticed emergency medical attention should be sought.
As one of Synthroid's side effects is weight loss, there has been some interest in the product as a weight-loss aid. While it is true many patients experience weight loss as thyroxine levels return to normal, the medication does very little to promote weight loss if hypothyroidism is not present. Using this product in quantities large enough to produce appreciable weight loss when the thyroid is functioning normally is extremely dangerous and may prove fatal.
No current Rx required
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Medicines have benefits and some have risks. Always read the label and use only as directed. If symptoms persist or you have side effects see your health professional.