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January 26, 2023 8 min read

Are you tired of feeling sluggish and anxious despite taking your levothyroxine? Have you been experiencing strange symptoms like a runny nose, stomach discomfort, or even rashes and hives? If so, you may be wondering if it's possible to be allergic to synthetic T4 medications.

Well, you're in luck because, in this article, we're going to dive into the world of drug allergies and explore the ins and outs of being allergic to this thyroid hormone replacement medication. From identifying the symptoms to finding ways to overcome them, we've got you covered. So, sit back, relax and let's uncover the mystery of levothyroxine allergies together!

What is hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism, also known as underactive thyroid, is one of the most common thyroid disorders out there. It happens when your thyroid gland, the little butterfly-shaped organ in your neck, doesn't produce enough thyroid hormone. There are two main thyroid hormones: T4 (thyroxine) and T3 (triiodothyronine). These hormones are essential for regulating your metabolism, heart rate, weight, and even mood. It also impacts your blood pressure. In short, these powerful hormones can impact almost every part of your life.

When you have low thyroid hormone levels, a whole bunch of things in your body can start to slow down. Symptoms can include dry skin, fatigue, weight changes, and memory issues.

The most common causes of hypothyroidism are autoimmune disorders, surgery, and radiation therapy.

A low level of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) in the blood is usually the first sign that your thyroid isn't working as it should. Hypothyroidism cannot be cured, but it is treatable and, in the vast majority of instances, brought under complete control with thyroid hormone replacement therapy. In this therapy, you'll need to take thyroid medication every day for the rest of your life. With regular therapy, most people can get back to feeling like themselves again.

What is levothyroxine?

Levothyroxine is a prescription drug that helps to regulate thyroid hormone levels in the body. It's a synthetic version of T4, one of the two hormones naturally produced by your thyroid.

Levothyroxine is the standard medication to treat hypothyroidism. In addition to being an effective treatment for hypothyroidism, this medication may also help with conditions such as goiter (enlarged thyroid gland). It's also used for people who have undergone thyroidectomy (removal of the thyroid gland) to treat thyroid cancer.

Patients must be careful to take their dose at the same time each day to ensure that they are receiving proper levels of medication. It may take several weeks for patients to begin feeling better after starting levothyroxine treatment, and it's important to follow up with your doctor regularly during this period.

How does levothyroxine work?

Levothyroxine works by medication works by replacing the hormones that are normally made by the thyroid gland. It helps regulate metabolism and other body functions such as energy production and digestion.

When taken properly, levothyroxine helps to restore balance in the body's systems and can improve symptoms of hypothyroidism such as fatigue, weight gain or difficulty losing weight, dry skin, and hair loss.

What is drug allergy?

A drug allergy occurs when the body has an adverse reaction to a medication or an ingredient in a medication. These allergic reactions can range from mild skin irritation to life-threatening anaphylactic shock, so it's important to understand how a drug allergy works and how it can be managed or avoided. From over-the-counter drugs and herbal supplements to prescription medicine, any medication can cause a drug allergy.

Drug allergies occur when the immune system identifies a medication as foreign and launches an attack against it by producing antibodies known as immunoglobulin E (IgE). These are antibodies that cause your body to react instantly when exposed to allergens, causing your body to release histamine and other chemicals that cause inflammation and allergic reactions.

When this happens, you'll likely experience some pretty nasty symptoms, ranging from the annoying (a runny nose) to the uncomfortable (stomach discomfort) to the itchy (rashes and hives). It can even lead to anaphylaxis, which is a life-threatening condition that needs immediate medical attention.

A drug allergy is not the same as a drug side effect. A side effect is a known possible reaction to a medicine that is listed on the drug label. Moreover, a drug allergy is also different from drug toxicity, which is caused by taking too much medication.

What is drug sensitivity?

Drug sensitivity, also referred to as intolerance, is a type of response from the body that occurs when it is unable to break down specific proteins in food or ingredients in the medication. Unlike allergic reactions to drugs, sensitivities do not involve the immune system in the same way.

Individuals can develop drug sensitivity when they don't have the necessary enzymes to break down certain foods or drugs. If these proteins are not present in sufficient amounts or if their activity is decreased, the body may be unable to process certain drugs properly, leading to sensitivity. For example, a lack of lactase enzyme can result in difficulty breaking down lactose. Drug sensitivity could also occur due to sensitivity to caffeine or other chemicals in medicine or to sugars in certain foods.

When you have drug sensitivity, you might experience symptoms like diarrhea, bloating, nausea, constipation, and cramping.

Is it possible to be allergic or sensitive to levothyroxine?

Before we answer the question, let's take a look at the common ingredients in levothyroxine.

Active ingredient:

  • Levothyroxine sodium or synthetic T4

Inactive ingredients:

  • Colloidal silicon dioxide

  • Lactose

  • Magnesium stearate

  • Microcrystalline cellulose

  • Corn starch

  • Acacia

  • Sodium starch glycolate may contain gluten.

Allergic or sensitive to the active ingredient of levothyroxine is pretty rare. It's the inactive ingredients in the medication that can cause allergic or sensitivity reactions in some people. For example, someone might be allergic to lactose, sensitive to corn starch, or cannot tolerate gluten due to certain conditions like celiac disease.

What are the symptoms of an allergic reaction to levothyroxine?

Having hypersensitivity reactions or being allergic to levothyroxine can manifest in various ways. Sometimes, the two can cause similar symptoms. Some common allergic symptoms include a stuffy nose, itchy eyes, congestion, a change in temperament, a rash similar to eczema, hives, severe itching, abdominal pain, swelling, gas, nausea, and vomiting.

Aside from causing abdominal pain and rash, hypersensitivity reactions may also include fever, wheezing, flushing, and pruritus.

These symptoms may be caused by an allergy or hypersensitivity to the ingredients in the medication, such as acacia or lactose. It's also possible for individuals to have an allergic reaction specifically to cornstarch, which can cause a wide range of symptoms, from hives to anaphylaxis. Some people may also experience fluctuations in the effectiveness of the medication during allergy season.

How do you know if you are allergic or sensitive to levothyroxine therapy?

Diagnosing a medication sensitivity or severe allergic reaction can be challenging, but identifying an allergy is typically straightforward. To assist in this process, it can be helpful to keep a detailed log of your symptoms. This log should include information such as the times you experience symptoms, the foods and other items you consume, and any other relevant details.

If you think you're having an allergic or hypersensitivity to levothyroxine, it's important to speak with your thyroid doctor to discuss your concerns and share the information from your symptom diary. A thorough understanding of your symptoms is crucial in accurately diagnosing a medication sensitivity or allergy, and your diary can serve as a valuable tool for your healthcare provider in this process.

To determine whether you have an allergy or sensitivity to levothyroxine, your doctor may order some allergy testing. These includes:

Scratch test

The scratch test involves the placement of a small amount of the allergen on the skin and then lightly scratching the surface to allow it to penetrate. If redness appears around the site, it's likely that an allergy exists.

Patch test

A patch test for allergy to levothyroxine is a skin test that is used to determine if a person is allergic to the medication. It involves applying a small amount of levothyroxine to the skin, usually on the arm or back and then checking the area after 24-48 hours for any signs of redness, itching, or swelling. If any of these signs occur, it indicates that the person is likely allergic to the medication and should not take it.

Blood tests

Some doctors may perform a blood test. However, a blood test for allergy to levothyroxine is not a commonly used method to detect an allergy to the medication. It is possible to get a blood test for allergies, but the research on this type of testing is limited. Therefore, the results of this test may not always be accurate.

Other diagnostic methods

Aside from allergy testing, there are other diagnostic tools that can help your doctor find out the cause of your symptoms, such as:

  • An elimination diet

  • A tTG-IgA test (Tissue Transglutaminase IgA antibody) to test for celiac disease

  • A lactulose breath test.

What should you do if you're allergic to levothyroxine?

Having an allergy to levothyroxine can be a challenging but manageable situation. If you are allergic to this medication, don't despair – there are many different options out there for you to explore.

The first thing you should do is talk with your doctor about switching medications. Sometimes, your doctor may try to do oral desensitization, which is a treatment that involves providing very small, but gradually increasing amounts of the drug that you are allergic to. However, while there is successful oral desensitization to levothyroxine reported, it's still pretty uncommon to do. Therefore, there is a good chance that your doctor will recommend a medication that works better for you and doesn't cause any adverse reactions.

One option to consider is natural desiccated thyroid (NDT). NDT is a natural thyroid hormone replacement that is derived from the thyroid glands of pigs but has been prepared in a safe way for humans to consume. It has been used for over a century to treat hypothyroidism, and many people find it to be an effective alternative to levothyroxine. Many brands of NDT, such as WP Thyroid and VitaliThy, have fewer inactive ingredients. Thus, they don't contain common allergens like gluten or lactose, so you don't have to worry about dealing with allergic reactions.

One of the drawbacks of WP Thyroid is that it can be hard to find, and some doctors refuse to prescribe it. But VitaliThy, a natural desiccated thyroid you can buy online, is easy to get. With only several taps on your phone, you can have it delivered right to your door. Not only is it easy to get online, but it's also free from artificial coloring and flavoring and free of allergens like eggs, shellfish, fish, gluten, and lactose. Plus, VitaliThy contains thyroid USP, so you know you're getting the highest quality every time.

Conclusion: Levothyroxine allergy

Levothyroxine is a great treatment for thyroid disease, but if you're allergic to the ingredients, it won't do you any good. Talk to your healthcare provider about any severe allergic reactions and potential risks, as they may be able to switch you to a different medication.

Some people may benefit from VitaliThy, a natural desiccated thyroid you can buy online, which has fewer inactive ingredients. Furthermore, VitaliThy is allergen-friendly because it does not contain gluten or lactose. No need to worry about doctors refusing to prescribe it or waiting around in long lines at the pharmacy. With VitaliThy, you can get the medication you need when you need it.

Wojciech Majda
Wojciech Majda

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