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March 08, 2023 10 min read

Have you or someone you know been diagnosed with a thyroid condition and prescribed medication to manage it? It can be overwhelming to track all the different names, uses, and potential side effects of the medications. But don't worry; we've got you covered! In this article, we've compiled a comprehensive list of commonly prescribed thyroid medications, their uses, and possible side effects to help you better understand and manage your thyroid gland health. So, let's dive into the world of thyroid medication!

What are thyroid medications?

Thyroid medications are drugs used to treat thyroid disorders, which affect your thyroid gland's function. The thyroid gland is a small butterfly-shaped organ located in the neck that produces hormones, mainly thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), that regulate many important bodily functions, such as metabolism, heart rate, and body temperature.

Even though thyroid hormones are made in the thyroid, the production of these hormones is regulated by another hormone called thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), which is made by the pituitary gland (a pea-shaped organ found at the base of the brain).

When your thyroid is not functioning properly, it can result in either an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) or an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism). In these cases, thyroid medications may be prescribed to help regulate the thyroid hormone levels in the body.

Thyroid medicines can come in various forms, including pills, liquids, and injections, and can contain different ingredients. The type of medication prescribed will depend on your specific condition and needs.

What are thyroid medications used for?

A close up of a woman's neck to highlight the thyroid gland

Thyroid hormones are crucial in regulating your bodily functions, including metabolism, heart rate, and body temperature. When the thyroid gland is not producing enough hormone (hypothyroidism) or producing too much hormone (hyperthyroidism), it can cause a range of health problems. Importantly, thyroid hormones are used to treat the following conditions and help regulate hormone levels in the body:


Hypothyroidism is the most common thyroid disease. It's a condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones to meet the needs of the body. Doctors may use the term "an underactive thyroid gland" to describe hypothyroidism. Additionally, your thyroid hormones are essential for regulating metabolism, which is the process by which the body converts food into energy.

If hypothyroidism develops in children or teenagers, it may affect their growth, interfere with learning and brain development, and delay tooth development and puberty.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism can include fatigue, weight gain, constipation, dry skin, hair loss, and sensitivity to cold temperatures. If left untreated, hypothyroidism can lead to more serious health problems, such as heart disease, depression, and infertility.

Causes of hypothyroidism

There are several possible causes of hypothyroidism. One common cause is an autoimmune disorder called Hashimoto's thyroiditis, which occurs when the body's immune system attacks the thyroid gland, causing inflammation and damage. This can lead to a gradual loss of thyroid function over time, resulting in hypothyroidism.


Hyperthyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone, which can result in an overactive metabolism and a variety of symptoms, such as weight loss, rapid heartbeat, and nervousness.

Cause of Hyperthyroidism

There are several possible causes of hyperthyroidism, including:

  • Grave's disease: This autoimmune disorder causes the thyroid to go into overdrive, creating too many hormones for the body to handle.

  • Thyroid nodules: These are lumps that develop within the thyroid and can lead to the overproduction of thyroid hormone.

  • Thyroiditis: This is inflammation of the thyroid, which can cause the release of excess thyroid hormone into the bloodstream.

  • Excessive iodine intake: Consuming too much iodine, either through diet or supplements, can lead to hyperthyroidism.

  • Medications: Certain medications, such as amiodarone, can lead to the overproduction of thyroid hormone.

Thyroid cancer

Thyroid cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the thyroid gland cells. It's relatively rare compared to other types of cancer, but it can still have serious health consequences if left untreated.

The exact cause of thyroid cancer is not fully understood, but there are several factors that may increase the risk of developing the disease. These include:

  • Family history: People with a family history of thyroid cancer are at a higher risk of developing the disease.

  • Radiation exposure: Exposure to radiation, especially in childhood, can increase the risk of developing thyroid cancer.

  • Gender and age: Women are more likely to develop thyroid cancer than men, and the risk increases with age.

  • Certain genetic conditions: Some genetic conditions, such as multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 and familial medullary thyroid carcinoma, can increase the risk of developing thyroid cancer.

In cases of thyroid cancer, surgery is often the first line of treatment. The extent of the surgery will depend on several factors, such as the size and location of the cancer, as well as the person's overall health. In some cases, only part of the thyroid may need to be removed (a procedure known as a lobectomy or partial thyroidectomy), while in other cases, the entire gland may need to be removed (a procedure known as a total thyroidectomy).

What are the medications used to treat hypothyroidism?

Treatment for hypothyroidism usually involves taking thyroid hormone replacement medication. As its name suggests, they work by replacing the hormones that your body isn't producing naturally. This helps bring back balance to your system and restores normal functioning. Thus, you'll experience relief from hypothyroidism symptoms.

There are several types of thyroid hormone replacement medications. These include:

1. Levothyroxine

Levothyroxine is a synthetic form of the thyroid hormone thyroxine (T4), which is the main hormone produced by the thyroid. According to the American Thyroid Association, levothyroxine is the standard treatment for hypothyroidism. Some common brand names for levothyroxine are Synthroid, Unithroid, Levoxyl, and Tirosint.

Levothyroxine is typically taken orally once a day, usually in the morning on an empty stomach, and the dosage is carefully adjusted by a healthcare professional to meet the person's individual needs.

Levothyroxine is considered a safe and effective treatment for hypothyroidism, and most people who take it experience significant improvement in their symptoms.

Some people may experience side effects from taking levothyroxine, such as headache, nervousness, or difficulty sleeping. However, these side effects are usually mild and can often be managed by adjusting the dosage of the medication. Talk to your doctor if the side effect persists.

2. Liothyronine

Liothyronine is a synthetic form of the thyroid hormone triiodothyronine (T3). It's not as commonly prescribed as levothyroxine. Since T3 is the active thyroid hormone, liothyronine is seen as more potent than levothyroxine.

If you're not responding well to levothyroxine alone, your doctor may recommend adding liothyronine to your treatment plan. Together, these two synthetic hormones (T3 and T4) work to regulate your thyroid levels and improve your symptoms.

As with any medication, taking liothyronine can have potential side effects. Some people may experience side effects such as rapid heartbeat, tremors, or difficulty sleeping. However, these side effects are usually mild and can often be managed by adjusting the right dose of the medication.

3. Natural desiccated thyroid

Natural desiccated thyroid (NDT) is a type of medication that is derived from the dried and powdered porcine (pig) thyroid glands. It contains both T3 and T4 hormones in a natural ratio that mimics the hormone production of the human thyroid.

Although NDT was the first treatment available for hypothyroidism, its popularity declined with the mass marketing of synthetic thyroid hormone medications like levothyroxine. However, there is a growing interest in NDT again as people seek more natural and effective alternatives to traditional hypothyroidism treatments.

One of the reasons why NDT is gaining popularity among people with hypothyroidism is that it contains both T4 and T3 hormones in a natural ratio. This is great news for those whose bodies have difficulty converting T4 to T3, as NDT already provides the active T3 hormone. Additionally, NDT can be more affordable than buying levothyroxine and liothyronine separately, as NDT combines both hormones in one medication.

Many people find NDT to be more effective than synthetic thyroid hormone medications.In fact, a study has shown that most people who have tried both prefer NDT. The study also found that NDT is associated with better ease of symptoms and more weight loss.

However, finding NDT in local pharmacies can be challenging. But the great news is you can buy desiccated thyroid online, without a prescription, such as VitaliThy. While VitaliThy is classified as an NDT supplement, it contains Thyroid (USP) – the same active ingredient as Armour Thyroid – which provides all the necessary thyroid hormones to manage your hypothyroidism symptoms. This is possible because VitaliThy is a Vietnam-based brand, where regulations about medications and supplements are different from those in the US.

Most importantly, VitaliThy is a natural thyroid product that's free of allergens, lactose, and gluten, making it safe for anyone, especially those with drug allergies.

What are hyperthyroidism medications?

Hyperthyroidism medications are drugs that are used to treat an overactive thyroid, a condition where the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone. The goal of these medications is to slow down the production of thyroid hormones and bring them to a normal level.

Down below are some of the hyperthyroidism medications.

1. Tapazole (methimazole)

Tapazole, also known as methimazole, works by preventing the thyroid from producing too much thyroid hormone.

In rare cases, Tapazole can cause more serious side effects, such as:

  • Agranulocytosis is a condition where the body's white blood cell count drops significantly

  • Liver damage

  • Stevens-Johnson syndrome, a rare but severe skin condition

  • Vasculitis or inflammation of the blood vessels

2. Propylthiouracil (PTU)

Propylthiouracil (PTU) is another anti-thyroid medication used to treat hyperthyroidism. It works by blocking the production of thyroid hormones.

Like all medications, PTU can cause side effects. The most common side effects include:

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Headache

  • Rash or itching

  • Joint pain

  • Taste disturbances.

3. Beta-blockers

Beta-blockers are a class of medication that can be used to manage the symptoms of hyperthyroidism. They work by blocking the effects of thyroid hormones on the body's tissues.

Common beta-blockers used for hyperthyroidism include propranolol, atenolol, and metoprolol. While these medications are generally well-tolerated, they can cause side effects in some people. Some common side effects of beta-blockers include:

  • Fatigue or weakness

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

  • Shortness of breath

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Diarrhea or constipation

  • Cold hands and feet

  • Depression or mood changes

  • Sexual dysfunction

In rare cases, beta-blockers can also cause more serious side effects, such as:

  • Bradycardia, a slow heart rate

  • Hypotension, low blood pressure

  • Hypoglycemia, low blood sugar

  • Bronchospasm, a narrowing of the airways

4. Other treatment options for hyperthyroidism

In some cases, people with hyperthyroidism may also need additional treatment options like radioactive iodine therapy or thyroidectomy. Radioactive iodine therapy involves the administration of a dose of radioactive iodine, which is taken up by the thyroid and helps to destroy or damage the overactive thyroid cells. On the other hand, thyroidectomy is a surgical procedure where part or all of the thyroid is removed.

What are the medications for thyroid cancer?

Thyroid cancer is typically treated with a combination of surgery, radioactive iodine therapy, and thyroid hormone replacement therapy. Let's take a closer look at each treatment option, including the medications used to manage the disease.

1. Radioactive iodine therapy

Radioactive iodine treatment is a common approach to treating thyroid cancer. This involves ingesting a small amount of radioactive iodine, either in liquid or capsule form, which travels through your bloodstream and targets and kills cancerous thyroid cells.

While the procedure is generally safe and well-tolerated, it's important to note that you will need to stay in the hospital for a few days following the treatment. This is because the iodine makes your body slightly radioactive, which can be a potential health risk to those around you if you leave the hospital too soon. However, once the radiation levels in your body have returned to a safe level, you will be able to go home and resume your regular activities.

While radioactive iodine therapy can effectively treat thyroid cancer, it can also cause some side effects. These may include:

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Chest pain

  • Dry mouth

  • Swollen salivary glands

  • Fatigue

  • Reduced sense of taste or smell

  • Temporary worsening of hyperthyroidism (in rare cases)

  • Sore throat or neck discomfort

2. Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment involving medications to kill cancer cells. While chemotherapy is not typically the first-line treatment for thyroid cancer, it may be used in certain cases where cancer has spread beyond the thyroid.

Like other cancer treatments, chemotherapy can cause side effects. Some of the most common side effects of chemotherapy for thyroid cancer include the following:

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Hair loss

  • Fatigue

  • Decreased appetite

  • Diarrhea or constipation

  • Mouth sores

  • Increased risk of infections

  • Anemia

3. Thyroid hormone replacement therapy

Thyroid hormone replacement therapy is often used as a long-term treatment for patients who have had their thyroid partially or completely removed due to thyroid cancer. Since the thyroid produces hormones that regulate various bodily functions. These patients who have had their thyroid removed need to take thyroid hormone medications to replace what their bodies can no longer produce. This is important not only for overall health and well-being but also to prevent cancer from returning.

You can choose to take levothyroxine or natural desiccated thyroid (NDT).

Do you need regular monitoring if you take thyroid medication?

If you take thyroid medications, it's important to have regular monitoring to ensure that your medication works effectively and to check for any potential side effects. This may involve regular blood tests to check your thyroid hormone levels, as well as physical exams and discussions with your healthcare provider about any symptoms or concerns you may have.

The frequency of monitoring may vary depending on your individual situation and the type of medication you're taking. Your healthcare provider can provide guidance on how often you should be monitored and what tests are needed. It's important to attend all scheduled appointments and follow your healthcare provider's instructions for managing your thyroid medication to ensure the best possible outcomes for your health.

Conclusion: Thyroid medications allow you to live a full, healthy life

Several types of medications are used for thyroid disorders, each with its own benefits and potential side effects. Dealing with a thyroid disorder can be challenging, but it's important to remember that you're not alone in this fight. With the right treatment plan and support, it's possible to manage the symptoms and live a full, healthy life. Keep advocating for yourself and your health, and don't give up hope.

If you're struggling with hypothyroidism and you want a hassle-free but effective treatment option, be sure to try VitaliThy, a natural desiccated thyroid you can buy online.

Wojciech Majda
Wojciech Majda

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