Educational Material

Health Guides on Thyroid Disease

Common Concerns of Thyroid Patients

Robert Volpé, OC, MD, FRCP(C), MACP, Medical Advisor to the Thyroid Foundation, has put together the following series of questions and answers gleaned from his own practice, members' enquiries, and during his speaking engagements with the Foundation.

1. Is goitre due to lack of iodine in our diet? Should I eat kelp to get rid of this goitre? View Answer [+]

2. I have been on thyroxine for many years for the control of my hypothyroidism. However, at times I get very nervous and irritable or very fatigued and I believe it is my thyroid "kicking up". What should I do with my dosage of thyroxine? View Answer [+]

3. I have been feeling very fatigued for many years. I also complain of constipation, lethargy, inability to concentrate and weight gain. I have seen several doctors including an endocrinologist; they have tested my thyroid with blood tests on many occasions. The tests always come back completely normal. Yet, I have been reading that these tests are not accurate and that measurements of body temperatures are more accurate. Moreover, I understand that I should be taking thyroid medication for these symptoms despite normal thyroid function tests. View Answer [+]

4. I have been taking thyroxine 0.15 mgs. per day for some years. I felt well most of this time but recently I have had some rapid heart beating and sweating. My doctor found the serum thyroxine (T4) to be elevated and has cut my dosage of thyroxine down to half. Now I am feeling quite tired. What is going on? View Answer [+]

5. An aunt has papillary thyroid cancer and was treated. Several months ago my family doctor found a thyroid nodule on my neck and referred me to a specialist. I understand thyroid cancer is hereditary and although my doctor reassures me, I am frightened that I too may have thyroid cancer. View Answer [+]

6. A little over a year ago my doctor discovered a nodule and advised me that he would watch it and possibly prescribe thyroxine. Since then I developed another nodule and a cyst and experienced pain in my throat. At this time the physician I am seeing is not considering treatment with thyroxine but is suggesting surgery. I am 70 years old and am resisting this treatment. Am I taking a risk by avoiding surgery? A needle biopsy proved negative. Is there any other treatment for my condition? View Answer [+]

7. I have been taking thyroxine 0.15 mg for the past 30 years. At my last appointment with my new family physician, I was told my dose is too high. I feel very well and don't look forward to the possibility of changing my hormone level. However, I understand there are risks of osteoporosis when thyroid hormone levels are too high. I wonder how great these risks are and whether my current sense of well-being should be taken into consideration when making a decision to change my dose of thyroxine. View Answer [+]

8. I have an overactive thyroid, yet my sister has an underactive thyroid, just the opposite. Is it not strange that these two conditions have occurred in our family? View Answer [+]

9. I have very prominent eyes associated with my Graves' disease. The Graves' disease was treated with radioactive iodine and indeed my goitre disappeared and I feel generally much better. I am now taking thyroxine therapy for an underactive thyroid resulting from the radioactive iodine. However, I expected my eyes to improve and they have not. Should I change my dose of thyroxine? View Answer [+]

10. Could the physical and emotional stress caused by a car accident trigger Graves' disease in a patient with no previous thyroid problems? View Answer [+]

11. I have Graves' disease and was treated with propylthiouracil four years ago. My goitre shrank and after one year the propylthiouracil was discontinued. I have been feeling well since. Do I need my thyroid checked further? View Answer [+]

12. I have read drug information sheets on anti-thyroid medication for Graves' disease from the pharmacist and feel very apprehensive about these drugs. My doctor did not go into such detail but I have heard there can be serious side effects. Should I ask my doctor to try a different treatment strategy because of these risks? View Answer [+]

13. My doctor wishes to prescribe radioactive iodine for the treatment of my overactive thyroid. However, I fear this treatment as it may make me sterile or cause cancer. Moreover, I am fearful that I will be a danger to other people. View Answer [+]

14. I am concerned about taking thyroxine for the rest of my life. Can I take it during pregnancies? Can I take it with other medications? What if I miss a pill? What if I take an extra pill by accident? Why can't I take the natural product rather than a synthetic preparation? View Answer [+]

15. How does hypothyroidism affect memory loss? View Answer [+]

16. Is there any possibility that migraine headaches could be connected with the thyroid malfunctioning? View Answer [+]

17. What non-allopathic (i.e. homeopathic, etc.) treatments are available for hyperthyroidism? View Answer [+]

18. What elements or chemicals in drinking water are considered problematic to thyroid conditions? View Answer [+]

19. Where is the most advanced medical research carried out on thyroid problems? What research is being done at present? View Answer [+]

20. I have had Hashimoto's syndrome for almost ten years - shortly after the birth of our second child. Are my children at risk? If so, can I do anything to minimize the risk? View Answer [+]

21. During a CAT scan I found I am allergic to iodine. Could this allergy have triggered my autoimmune response? View Answer [+]

22. Does a person's age affect the recovery rate from thyroid disease or the amount of supplemental thyroid medication needed? What is considered a "normal range" for TSH and T3 RIA readings? View Answer [+]

23. I have been on thyroxine for 4 years. Then quite suddenly I became hyperthyroid. Is it possible that thyroxine can stay in the body for a while, then act up rather suddenly? Would a stressful event precipitate such a flare-up? View Answer [+]

24. I have an inactive thyroid and have been on thyroxine for 4 months. How long will it be before I begin to feel well again? View Answer [+]

Written by: Robert Volpé, M.D., F.R.C.P.(C), M.A.C.P., Professor Emeritus, Department of Medicine, University of Toronto. Director, Endocrine Research Laboratory, Wellesley Hospital, Toronto.