Jun 8, 2009

A Hypothyroidism Story

Levothyroxine: my new best friend?

My physical and mental well being have been on the decline for quite some time now, though I have tended to attribute this to the onset of middle age. However, my energy levels and alertness have nosedived the last few months, and I decided to finally visit my physician between semesters.

To be more truthful, I thought a 10-day reduced workload would "cure" me, and I only went to the clinic after rest failed to rejuvenate me.

I have a number of items that concerned my doctor - such as higher serum cholesterol and blood pressure that now falls into the pre-hypertensive category - but what jumped out from the blood tests were low levels of T3 and T4, the hormones produced by the thyroid gland. In short, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism.

Now, I am hardly ecstatic to learn that I have a debilitating illness, but it is of some comfort to know that this is a condition that is: a) treatable with medicine; and b) responsible for many health-related problems I have noticed as my body approaches its fifth decade. Moreover, a diagnosis like hypothyroidism is certainly better than learning of something like mesothelioma cancer.

My sense of smell began to disappear sometime in the last few years (this is known as anosmia), and today I can only smell items placed directly in front of my nose. I have also noticed a decrease in memory-related functions, especially short-term recall, and my ability to concentrate has diminished.

Of particular concern, though, is the amount of fatigue I have experienced the last few months, as it takes much of my energy simply to deliver a few hours of lectures a day. No amount of sleep seems to recharge my batteries, and I have had to cut back on my workload to save my energy for the most important job functions.

So I will dutifully swallow my prescribed levothyroxine with the hope that I will begin to return to some state of normal in a few weeks. So far the only effect I have noticed in three days of taking levothyroxine has been a significant increase in hunger, which probably reflects that my metabolism is ramping up.

Feel free to leave in the comments section any experiences you or someone you know has had with hypothyroidism. I look forward to reading your stories and perhaps learning more about this condition.

Oh, and yes: I did smugly tell someone this weekend that my extra 20 pounds are in part due to a "glandular problem." Kind of cool, that.


Anonymous said...

Tough break, Mikey - be sure to take the synthetic thyroid every day!

Mad Jack said...

My own Main Lady has it. She's been treating it with drugs for years and is doing well.

Just take your pills like a good boy, and maybe Mrs. HistoryMike will bake you a Popsicle or something.

She's a Math Lover said...

Mrs. HistoryMike has something else in mind, she doesn't much care for baking!

Anonymous said...


Not so tough - I'll take an underactive thyroid gland over a malignant tumor any day of the week.

historymike said...

Glad to hear the Main Lady is doing well with hypothyroidism, MadJack.

historymike said...

She's a Math Lover:


BTW - welcome to the blogosphere.

historymike said...


Somehow I now have the #1 Google search result for the phrase "hypothyroidism story," and I have received several emails from hypothyroid patients in the midst of a flood of hypothyroid-related traffic (300 extra hits today alone). A few thoughts for those just visiting the blog for the first time:

1. I am not a doctor, just a schlep with hypothyroidism.

2. Thus, as an ordinary schlep, I could not even begin to diagnose your s**t, let alone a complicated condition like hypothyroidism. Go see a doctor, preferably one with some expertise in metabolic functions.

3. Here are my symptoms, for what they are worth. Symptoms vary widely since the thyroid affects so many different systems of the body, and your symptoms could be quite different from mine:

* Fatigue
* Loss of energy
* Short term memory loss
* Lower ability to concentrate
* Depression
* Joint pain
* Neuropathy in toes
* General lack of interest in activities
* Anosmia (loss of smell)
* Elevated serum cholesterol
* Weight gain
* Reduced muscle strength

4. While I understand that you wound up on my site because the Google algorithm sent you here, nothing on this site should be construed as advice on treating or diagnosing hypothyroidism. Go see a doctor. Oh, I said that already.


Hooda Thunkit (a.k.a. Dave Zawodny) said...


Welcome to PillVille...

Now take your meds kike a good little boy and be very nice to "She's a Math Lover."

And, if you snore, get a sleep study done. A CPAP or Bi-Pap machine and mask aren't really so bad, if ti improves your life while awake.

And, you sound like a CPAP/BiPAP candidate, although I only play a doctor on the Internet ;-)

steve said...

I've been taking the pills for a couple of years now with all the same symptoms and issues you described. I'm 45. As a nursing student I know that the thyroid needs the mineral iodine for metabolic support. Yogurt has a good amount of iodine as does apricots. Also for high BP you need to get close to the RDA of potassium because potassium has an inverse relationship with sodium in the body; bananas and apricots are high in potassium. But don't go crazy because TOO much potassium is bad as well.. can cause heart arrhythmias.

Carol said...

Mike - Glad you visited the doctor and found out what the issue is. Now you can treat it and get back on track. I've known many folks with this problem and they all do well with the medication.

Welcome to the 50something group. :)

**Glad to see She's A Math Lover has joined in the fray! Wish my other half would!

Nancy said...

Mike, there's a much better way to treat hypothyroidism. It's called desiccated thyroid and many doctors are clueless. You're going to continue to have symptoms on levothyroxine, especially rising cholesterol. Here's a patient-to-patient website explaining it all: http://www.stopthethyroidmadness.com

dr-exmedic said...

It's called desiccated thyroid and many doctors are clueless.
No, we've heard of it and stopped using it (Armour Thyroid used to be the big brand) because its precise hormone content is less predictable than Synthroid.

Hypo's mom said...

Until I stumbled onto your blog, I never realized that anosmia and hypothyroidism might be related. My teenage son has both conditions. He has been taking Synthroid for about 8 years. I think his sense of smell has improved some while taking Synthroid, but not a lot.

How is your anosmia doing? Have you noticed any improvement in sense of smell since starting Levothyroxine?

Hypo's Mom said...

PS from Hypo's Mom:
Mike, I really do want to know how you are doing and whether there is any improvement in your sense of smell. If that gets significantly better for you, but isn't getting significantly better form my son, maybe my my son would do better on the brand you are using, or maybe his dosage needs tweaking. So please post an update on how you are doing. Thanks!

historymike said...

Hypo's Mom:

Sorry for the delay; I am up to my ears in grading papers.

After 4 weeks I am starting to feel better, although I have a host of other problems I just learned about after more tests.

As far as the anosmia: I still have almost no sense of smell, and the Levothyroxine has made no dent in this.

As far as other symptoms: I have been reading that enlightened doctors seek dosages of Levothyroxine that improve symptoms, rather than simply prescribing a dose that hits some artificial T-3 or T-4 numbers as gauged by blood work. I am taking 75 mcg once a day, which seems to be improving my mood and energy somewhat. I return in 8 weeks for more bloodwork, and then I will probably push for a higher dosage if my symptoms have shown only mild improvement.

Hypo's Mom said...

Thank you for taking time (and energy) to reply to me. I'm sorry to learn that the thyroid medication has not made a dent in anosmia or the other problems.

My son has a host of other problems, too, but most of them are quite different from yours. I wish that thyroid medication would cure all my son's medical problems and all of yours, but it doesn't.

As far as anosmia goes, if a human being must give up one sense, smell is the least necessary. It's still important, though. My son cannot detect the smell of natural gas, the odor of rancid foods, or other smells that are helpful for health and safety. I'm on the lookout for gadgets that may help protect him. Smoke alarms are essential. Maybe there's a similar device to detect natural gas. I'll look around and will alert you if I find anything that may help you and my son.

As for your other health problems, I understand the challenges you are facing and how overwhelming they can seem. Sort of like a single firefighter trying to fight multiple fires. If you can get one problem (thyroid) under control and keep it under control while you tackle the next one, you are doing great! I'll keep an eye on your blog and hope to see some good news about health progress.

Thanks again for taking time to reply to my question.

Hypo's Mom

hotline said...

I was diagnosed with hashimotos. All the symptoms. And lost my sense of smell after taking synthroid for six months or so. Who knows if it's related. But new doc put me on Trinoset - a clean version of T4 - no fillers or dye in the drug. And a natural T3 from a compounding pharmacy. Going to the ENT today to see if my loss of smell is from anything else. Sooo bummed about it. Never to smell roses, or honey or cut grass or the sea or chocolate or my dog after a bath or a toasty fire on a cold day or coffee in the morning or a fire that isn't supposed to be a fire. I'm only 43. Feel like I'm falling apart. Hope you're better, Mike.

hotline said...

And I will add that I took Afrin and a nasal steroid for a sinus cold at the same time I loss my sense of smell... wondering if Synthroid and cytomel may interact with these things. If anybody else had combined these things... it's important to note. I think.

hotline said...

Sorry... correction. New drug is trinosint. Not trinoset.