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Common Medications for Hypothyroidism

levothyroxine sodium prescription bottle. levothyroxine is a generic medication name and label was created by photographer.

If you find yourself consistently feeling under the weather, your thyroid may be the culprit.  More than 12%[i] of the American population (that’s over 20 million people!) have some form of thyroid disease or will develop one over the course of their lifetime.

But because the symptoms indicating thyroid problems are extremely variable, it can be tough to identify; it is estimated that up to 60% of those suffering from thyroid issues are unaware of their condition.

Hypothyroidism[ii] is when your thyroid is under-performing.  This means that your thyroid gland isn’t producing enough of the thyroid hormone (T3) to help your body adequately perform its normal processes.

Hypothyroidism can cause a number of symptoms, like constantly feeling cool/cold, chronic fatigue, cognitive dysfunction (i.e. becoming forgetful or having difficulty concentrating), digestive trouble, weight gain, etc.

The condition is more commonly seen in women than in men; statistically one in eight women will develop thyroid problems in her lifetime.

Hypothyroidism is easily identified with a simple blood test, and usually requires lifetime treatment.

If you are one of the millions of people who are suffering from an underactive thyroid, then your doctor has likely gone over a few different options to help treat your condition.  We’ve provided a short list here to help you better understand the most commonly prescribed solutions to manage hypothyroidism.



While some forms of hypothyroidism can’t be cured, it can be treated.

This is generally done by replacing the thyroid hormone your body is missing with an artificial supplement like Synthroid[iii].  The main ingredient in Synthroid is levothyroxine sodium; it supplies the T4 hormone, which is a laboratory-created thyroid hormone that is turned into the T3 hormone inside the body.

Synthroid is taken throughout your life in carefully monitored dosages to avoid under- or over-replacing the thyroid hormone.  Because your body’s thyroid needs may change over the years, it is not uncommon for your doctor to adjust your dosages accordingly.

In a double-blind study[iv] conducted at the National Institutes of Health, Synthroid was shown to help reduce body weight in addition to affecting greater thyroid hormone action in the body, without having any adverse effects on cardiovascular health, exercise tolerance, or insulin sensitivity.

The study also showed that equivalent amounts of the drug Cytomel (discussed below) achieve the same benefits.

Another study done at the University Hospital Clementino Fraga Filho[v] revealed that Synthroid can help improve energy levels and exercise tolerance over long-term use in patients suffering from hypothyroidism, which resulted in lower levels of chronic fatigue and a greater ease in accomplishing daily tasks.


Cytomel (liothyronine)[vi] is also used to treat hypothyroidism and can be used in place of or in conjunction with levothyroxine depending upon your needs and your doctor’s recommendation.

Like Synthroid, Cytomel is a pure T4 drug.

Cytomel tends to act more quickly in the body than Synthroid, which makes it ideal for patients suffering from myxedema coma, thyroid cancer, or Graves disease.

Cytomel requires precise dosages in order to be effective and must be taken throughout your life.

Armour Thyroid

A third option to treat hypothyroidism is a drug which is commercially called Armour Thyroid[vii].

Unlike Synthroid and Cytomel, which are artificial T4 hormone replacers, Armour Thyroid is derived from porcine adrenal glands and contains both the T4 and T3 hormones.

Because Armour Thyroid contains T3, patients often report feeling an improvement in their symptoms within an hour or so of taking a dose, whereas Synthroid or Cytomel both tend to take a couple hours before producing any noticeable effect.

This is because the body needs time to convert the T4 present in Synthroid and Cytomel into T3 inside of the body.

However, due to Armour Thyroid’s classification as a natural desiccated thyroid drug (NDT), many doctors are reluctant to prescribe it over Synthroid or Cytomel, and you may have difficulty in finding a pharmacy that is able to fill the prescription.


Having an underactive thyroid doesn’t mean that you have to feel under the weather forever.

Once you and your doctor find the medication and regimen that is right for you and your body, you can swiftly be on your way to feeling in top shape.

Remember, not every person responds to thyroid hormone replacements in the same way or requires the same dosage, so your doctor will need to monitor you for up to 8 weeks to ensure that your medication is benefiting you.

This will usually involve your doctor monitoring any symptoms you may have, along with blood tests to check the levels of the thyroid hormone in your body.

You will also need to keep an eye out for any adverse reactions that would indicate an allergy or rejection of the medicine, such as shortness of breath, chest pain, insomnia, irregular menstrual cycles, hives or rash on the skin, etc.

Immediately consult your doctor with any concerns, and always ask your doctor before changing your medication or dosages.


[i] https://www.thyroid.org/media-main/about-hypothyroidism/

[ii] https://www.thyroid.org/hypothyroidism/

[iii] https://www.synthroid.com/what-is-synthroid/definition?cid=ppc_ppd_ggl_synth_br_2017_synthroid_Exact_605-1881228

[iv] http://www.druglib.com/abstract/ce/celi-fs_j-clin-endocrinol-metab_20110000.html

[v] http://www.druglib.com/abstract/ma/mainenti-mr_j-endocrinol-invest_20090500.html

[vi] https://www.rxlist.com/cytomel-drug.htm

[vii] http://www.pdr.net/drug-summary/armour-thyroid?druglabelid=2466

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