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Health Check: Can Amiodarone Cause Thyroid Problems?

heart drugs and blood medicine to treat the human heart organ in a pharmaceutical pill bottle showing the concept of prescription drugs therapy and research in hospital care for health and a healthy cardiovascular circulation of the body.

What You Need to Know About Amiodarone

Amiodarone is a type of drug that is widely used to cure heart rhythmic problems. Many use it to treat their ventricular tachyarrhythmia and convulsive atrial fibrillation. It’s a very effective drug, but like most medications, it also has its side effects. Some of these effects are quite serious.

If Amiodarone can cause serious health risks, why do physicians still use it to treat their patients with heart problems?

The answer is simply because the positive effects of this drug outweigh the negative ones. Amiodarone is more efficient compared to other treatments in curing persisting heart problems.

Amiodarone and Its Side Effects

  • Photosensitivity – A condition wherein the person becomes allergic to the sun which can cause rashes and burns to the skin.
  • Hyperthyroidism A condition wherein there is excessive production of the thyroid hormone due to the thyroid gland becoming uncontrollable.
  • Hypothyroidism – This time, the thyroid gland becomes almost inactive which slows the making of the hormone responsible for our energy and metabolism.
  • Peripheral Neuropathy – This condition is usually felt in the hands and feet. This happens when the nerves in our peripheral nervous system are damaged.

The symptoms of this condition depend on what nerves were affected: for example, if it’s your sensory nerves that were damaged, you may be extremely sensitive to touch, experience tingling or numbness in your arms or feet, and burning or freezing pain.

If it were the motor nerves, you might lose your balance and coordination. If it were your autonomic nerves, you might suffer from dizziness, heat tolerance, and digestive and bladder problems.

  • Corneal Micro-deposits – These micro-deposits appear as spiral-like patterns of gray or golden-brown deposits in the lower area of the cornea.
  • Hepatotoxicity – This means damage to the liver caused by medications or drugs.
  • Pulmonary Toxicity – This is the damage to the lungs that is also caused by drugs.

Due to the high content of iodine found in Amiodarone, thyroid problems are the most common side effects. About 10% of patients who take this drug suffer from hyperthyroidism, and about 30% suffer from hypothyroidism.

Amiodarone vs. Thyrotoxicosis: Their Relation With the Thyroid

Although they’re different, many people use hyperthyroidism and thyrotoxicosis interchangeably.

As mentioned, hyperthyroidism happens when the thyroid gland produces the thyroid hormone excessively.

On the other hand, thyrotoxicosis happens when there is an overabundance of the thyroid gland. Hence, there is also hyperthyroidism. Patients who suffer from this condition will also have low levels of TSH, or the thyroid–stimulating hormone, in their bloodstreams. This happens as the pituitary glands in their bodies are sensing that there are already enough thyroid hormones. These patients are most likely to feel nervous and irritable often, as the functions of their bodies are “speeding up.”

Thyrotoxicosis induced by Amiodarone often occurs suddenly, either in the early years of using the drug or after several years of treatment. The average time before this health complication occurred in patients is after three years of taking the medication. A fascinating aspect of this condition is that, because of the tissue stash of the medicine, its metabolites, and its gradual release, the effect can further endure a long time.

Therefore, it’s not surprising that thyrotoxicosis can happen even after several months following withdrawal.

How thyrotoxicosis develops is complicated and up to now, still not understood. This illness can occur in normal thyroid and in a thyroid gland that has previous deformities.

In a thyroid gland with previous ailments, thyrotoxicosis is a product of exaggerated thyroid hormone fusion that is induced by iodine. This is referred to as Type 1 AIT.

While in a normal thyroid gland, thyrotoxicosis can result in glandular damage with the consistent discharge of allotted thyroid hormones in the blood circulation, which is referred to as Type 2 AIT.

Diagnosis

You will be diagnosed with thyrotoxicosis if you suffer from several of these symptoms:

  • Tremors
  • Sweating
  • Sinus tachycardia
  • Unusual weight loss
  • Aggravation of unknown cardiac illnesses

Treatment

The treatment of thyrotoxicosis will depend on these factors:

  • Age
  • Cause of illness
  • Severity of illness
  • Other health conditions the patient may have

The different treatments doctors may prescribe:

  • Drug Treatment – There are two kinds of anti-thyroid medications that may be given to patients. Two of these drugs are propylthiouracil and methimazole. These drugs will prevent the production of the thyroid hormone.
  • Surgery – Doctors may recommend that the patients go through surgery to extract a part of the thyroid gland, or in more complicated cases, the entire organ.
  • Radioactive Iodine – Some doctors prefer to damage the cells permanently to treat thyrotoxicosis and hyperthyroidism. To make this happen, they are going to use radioactive iodine. Patients are going to swallow the drug in liquid or capsule form.

Conclusion

Patients who are taking Amiodarone are likely to suffer from thyroid problems.

It is essential that before taking the drug, they must fully understand the risks it poses on thyroid physiology, metabolism, and to the thyroid hormone.

More Reading:

https://pmj.bmj.com/content/76/893/133

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