Underactive Thyroid: Is Yours Being Overtreated?

Overtreatment for hypothyroidism places you at risk

thyroid 3D image

Is your underactive thyroid being overtreated?

If your thyroid gland is underactive — a condition called hypothyroidism — your body produces too little thyroid hormone.

Endocrinologists can make sure that you have enough of this important hormone by prescribing synthetic thyroid hormone T4 (Synthroid®, Levoxyl®, Levothroid® or another brand). Or they may prescribe a medication containing both T4 and T3, another thyroid hormone (Armour® Thyroid, Nature-Throid™, etc).

To feel your best, you need the right amount of replacement thyroid hormone in your system, stresses Mario Skugor, MD, of Cleveland Clinic’s Department of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism.

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Weight changes are key

Your dose of thyroid hormone is based on your weight, although doctors also have to keep the eye on your blood levels because some people have problems with absorption.

Be sure to report a weight gain or loss of 10 percent or more to your doctor right away, advises Dr. Skugor. This will help you avoid overtreatment or undertreatment.

Yet even when you’re on the right dose for your weight, you may be getting more thyroid hormone than your body needs.

Overtreatment places you at risk of developing heart arrhythmias and osteoporosis, a low bone-mass disorder that leads to easy fracturing.

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Dr. Skugor says it’s wise to be familiar with the signs of overtreatment for hypothyroidism:

Symptoms of mild overtreatment

  • Feeling hot or shaky
  • Heart palpitations
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Excessive sweating

Symptoms of severe overtreatment

  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Hand tremors
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle weakness, mainly in the thighs and shoulders
  • Weight loss
  • Inability to sleep and/or focus
  • Abnormally increased heart rate, even at rest
  • Forgetfulness

Two groups of people with hypothyroidism are at high risk of complications from overtreatment. They include:

  • People with heart rhythm disturbances (arrhythmias)
  • Elderly people with weak bones

Whether you’re young, old or in between, don’t adjust the dose yourself if you think you’re being overtreated. Call your doctor and explain your symptoms. He or she will check your blood levels of thyroid hormone.

The correct dose adjustment will soon have you feeling a whole lot better.

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  • Darla Roberts

    This info is wrong. I can’t believe a doctor wrote this. The dose does not go by body weight, but rather the level of hormone in your blood test. Please correct this so as to not give misinformation.

    • j b

      The dose does not go by weight..correct. However, if someone gains a significant amount of weight they will likely need a higher dose. This is just something that people need to be aware of so they can let a doctor know. The doctor would run a blood test before changing the dosage. A weight gain or a weight loss could be an indicator that someone needs to have their med adjusted, too…as in the thyroid has changed and the weight is a symptom of that.

      • Pat H.

        It has been my experience that most doctors do not care about the weight gain only about the hallowed TSH.

    • tmtowler

      They are explaining when body mass changes or other said effecting varibles change so do you thyroid levels at which point you need the said blood test you mentioned To See Where You stand.

    • Michelle

      I’ve lost 100 lbs in the last year and my TSH result jumped from .52 to 2.91 in that year. The reason I had it checked was because I feel lousy and my research has indicated that weight is a factor in dosage. I’m still within the range guidelines listed on the lab work, but that’s a pretty big jump in only a year.

  • Edie

    I was told I had unspecified hypothyroidism.Have been losing weight, went from 102 down to 95. I really can’t afford to lose any more. Can I be put on a medication to stop this weight loss? So far after 7 months and all blood work has been completed why isn’t the Doctor doing something to help me? By the way he is a Cleveland Clinic Physician…

    • Delilah Jenks

      Are you sure you don’t have hyper thyroidism.

  • Christie Lambert

    I am on .3 mg .i have no energy,have trouble sleeping, and my hair is coming out excessively in the shower and when i comb it.do.i need my mg changed?

    • JonGrant

      Has your doctor done a full thyroid panel, if not, that’s what he/she needs to do.

  • Chan

    I have thyroid disorder n Sorjgen syndrome witch comes from having thyroid disease. Be careful n hav your docs check your Ana for any other problems

  • Delilah Jenks

    My thyroid is checked every three months. It is not changed unless the test says it needs to be changed.

    • Tamzin

      I have been on Thyroxine for four years now with regular blood tests. I started on 50mcg and slowly increased to 150mcg. I lost six stones and then gained four and now just lost the four again. Recent blood test shows I’m over medicated and so have been reduced the dose to 125mcg. What prompted a doctors visit was weak and aching shoulder muscles, feeling unwell, body temperature changing continually and dizzy spells.

      • Diane

        Why is it when I see or hear anything about the Thyroid I never see or hear about not having one? I had hypothyroidism and most of mine was taken out 25 or so years ago and left me with just 2 small pieces of the parathyroid. At first I didn’t have a lot of trouble but now as I’m getting older I have had some problems and my Dr. is not testing me like he should be. the last time he tested he said my level was to high and to just take1 pill 5days a week. Still feel about the same.I have some symptoms of severe overtreatment. I only know this because I saw it on this site. Well I guess I’ll have to find some one else for help.

    • Delilah Jenks

      I was on 150MCG’s now I have been reduced to 125MCG’s. November will be another test. I also have high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure.

  • Bonnie

    I have Graves’ disease. It is critical that I have the correct dose of thyroid medication. Without the thyroid replacement I would live only in a vegetative state.

  • Denise

    The best book I have found that totally explains the thyroid is “Hypothyroidism Type II:The Epidemic” by Mark Starr M.D. Those of us with hypothyroidism have to be our own best advocates.

  • Yusela

    Yo tambien tirodes tetamiento todos dias tomos pastilla una medicina 150mg levotiroxina
    Pero como sanar mas nunca toda li vida porque yo quiero irita tirodes ?

  • JonGrant

    Doctors care only about TSH, not about T3, rT3, free T3or4, or antibodies (unless or until you beg or convince them to do a full panel, and that’s hard to do). I think it’s more common that people are walking around with poor thyroid function, and are never diagnosed. The average doctor will test TSH and attempt to treat only with synthroid, and once you are found to be in range, they make no further attempts to optimize. Try to get your doctor to prescribe dessicated natural thyroid because it works better for many people (good luck).

  • Bethany C

    I love that with this information on “symptoms of mild/severe overtreatment” it never once mentions that a synthetic thyroid hormone degenerates your thyroid so that it no longer functions and you’re then stuck on medication/replacement hormones the rest of your life. Thank you Cleveland Clinic for giving the full information on this and to the pharmaceutical world for making society dependent on your products.

    • MSDawn

      I take Armour Thyroid (a more bio identical form, made from dessicated pig thyroid) and I’ve had to have my dose lowered twice over the past 10 years, as it does allow my thyroid to keep “trying” in a way and not sit back and be lazy the way Synthroid does. I agree, synthetic thyroid hormone is not the way for me; natural is the way to go!

  • Dawn

    I have I high thyroid and I take levothroxine for my thyroid and my weight fluctuates

  • Deanna Jolly

    What do you all think about this… I was given 50mcg for a while, last time it was checked, they gave me 75 MCG told me to take the 50 MCG one day and 75 MCG the next, then the 50mcg. And continue doing that. I usually feel pretty good. It the Levothyroxine. I thought it was kind of odd. Any thoughts, anyone else take it like this ?I have lost weight, hair is thinner. I thought it could be stress too. I don’t need to loose weight, need to gain 10 lbs. Its all very confusing