JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

Treatment of hypothyroidism

W J Hueston
American Family Physician 2001 November 15, 64 (10): 1717-24
11759078
Thyroid disease affects up to 0.5 percent of the population of the United States. Its prevalence is higher in women and the elderly. The management of hypothyroidism focuses on ensuring that patients receive appropriate thyroid hormone replacement therapy and monitoring their response. Hormone replacement should be initiated in a low dosage, especially in the elderly and in patients prone to cardiac problems. The dosage should be increased gradually, and laboratory values should be monitored six to eight weeks after any dosage change. Once a stable dosage is achieved, annual monitoring of the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) level is probably unnecessary, except in older patients. After full replacement of thyroxine (T4) using levothyroxine, the addition of triiodothyronine (T3) in a low dosage may be beneficial in some patients who continue to have mood or memory problems. The management of patients with subclinical hypothyroidism (a high TSH in the presence of normal free T4 and T3 levels) remains controversial. In these patients, physicians should weigh the benefits of replacement (e.g., improved cardiac function) against problems that can accompany the excessive use of levothyroxine (e.g., osteoporosis).

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