Health Topics Written From the Dual Perspective of a Patient Who is Also a Nurse

Jeannette Laframboise

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Related Topics: Health 2.0, Disability Nexus

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Desiccated Thyroid as a Treatment Option

Focus on Hypothyroidism

Health 2.0 Journal on Ulitzer

The butterfly shaped thyroid gland is located in the anterior (front) lower portion of your neck. It has a left and right lobe and a middle portion attaching the two lobes known as the isthmus. The size and weight of the gland can vary-but in general it weighs between 18-60 grams. Despite this variation, the thyroid is relatively small but is extremely important to overall good health. I myself am ashamed to admit, that until I had my thyroid removed via a total thyroidectomy, I had absolutely no idea just how important this little gland was. Not only is it essential to good health, it is essential to life, period.
    
The thyroid gland secretes hormones necessary for the normal functioning of every cell in the body. It produces several hormones, most notably, Thyroxine (T4) and Triiodothyronine (T3). When it is not producing enough hormone, a condition known as hypothyroidism results.  The list of symptoms can be staggering and includes:  

*fatigue
*weight gain
*high cholesterol
*menstrual irregularities
*infertility
*joint/muscle pain
*hair loss
*skin abnormalities
*depression
*adrenal fatigue
*myxedema coma-which will result in death if left untreated

This symptom list is by no means all inclusive. There are many more symptoms however, this certainly gives you an idea of how much of a negative impact hypothyroidism can have.

The test your physician will order for diagnosis is known as the Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) blood test.  Fairly recently, the blood levels considered normal were changed and some labs and some doctors are still using the old levels. This means that there are people that would not have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism when they should be. This unfortunately results in patients unnecessarily suffering with hypothyroid symptoms. Hopefully soon, all labs and physicians will be using the correct levels all across the board and those that require treatment will receive it.
 
After my total thyroidectomy, I was prescribed, Synthroid ® the most common medication prescribed for hypothyroidism.  Medications such as this contain T4 only and subsequently rely upon the body to convert the inactive form of T4 into the biologically active T3 so that it may then be utilized by the body. For some people, Synthroid ® is sufficient and they feel well. However, for myself, I continued to suffer with many of the symptoms of hypothyroidism. My body was having difficulty converting the T4 into T3, therefore despite taking the medication, I remained in a horrible hypothyroid state.

After many hours of research I realized that there was another option available: desiccated thyroid. The most commonly sold brand in the United States is “Armour Thyroid” and it has been used safely and effectively for over 100 years and contains all of the same hormones that a normal thyroid gland produces. It is manufactured from the dried thyroid gland of pigs and undergoes the same rigorous testing as all pharmaceutical drugs approved by the FDA.

Outside of a few innovative practitioners, most physicians are hesitant to prescribe desiccated thyroid. This has occurred for a number of reasons. Mostly because  the desiccated thyroid makers do not have the same large marketing budget to get the word out hence, Synthroid® has become known as the “gold standard treatment for hypothyroidism.” However, there are many people not doing well on Synthroid® alone that would likely benefit from a trial of the desiccated. There is  one warning that should be noted. Due to the higher amount of biologically active T3 found in the desiccated, it can act directly on the heart and increase the heart rate significantly. For those without heart issues, this is usually not an area of concern. Most definitely, those with heart problems must discuss this possible risk with their physicians before a trial is initiated. For those that are doing well and feeling good on Synthroid® alone or any other T4 only drug, wonderful. If not, bring up the subject with your physician and discuss the possibility of a trial of desiccated thyroid.

For a wealth of information related to thyroid, thyroid diseases and the various thyroid treatments available-check out Patient Advocate Mary Shomon’s wonderfully comprehensive site at: http://thyroid.about.com/

Take care-Stay well,
Jeannette :0)         

More Stories By Jeannette Laframboise

I am an injured nurse. I was in the community nursing for 20 years and due to a workplace injury I am now disabled and unable to return to a job that I adored. I have done a fair amount of newspaper & magazine writing and am now looking at writing full-time as an occupation rather than a hobby. Presently, I author a health-related blog written from a dual perspective as both a patient & a health care professional. The focus is multi-faceted including: thyroid disease, workplace injury, chronic pain. depression, and coping with any sort of health related challenge.