About 4.6 percent, or one out of every 20 people ages 12 and older, are affected by an underactive thyroid gland, also known as hypothyroidism. This common hormonal imbalance is more likely to affect women than men, and adults over the age of 60 are also more likely to be diagnosed with the disorder.
An underactive thyroid is problematic because the body requires balanced levels of thyroid hormones to carry out numerous bodily functions, including metabolism and the growth and repair of cells. Patients with an imbalance of thyroid hormones may need medications like Armour Thyroid, a form of dessicated thyroid, to restore hormonal balance and minimize the unpleasant symptoms associated with hypothyroidism.
Because hypothyroidism is so common in the United States, synthetic thyroid hormones like Armour Thyroid are among the most popularly prescribed medications in the United States, but how the medication works is not commonly understood. What is Armour Thyroid and how does it work?
What is Armour Thyroid?
Armour Thyroid is a brand name prescription medication that is used to treat thyroid disorders associated with low levels of thyroid hormones.
Armour Thyroid is a type of dessicated thyroid, which means that it is a natural preparation of thyroid that is derived from animals. While dessicated thyroid can be derived from pigs, cows, or sheep, Armour Thyroid is derived from porcine thyroid glands; the medication comes in a tablet form.
When sold under the generic name, Armour Thyroid is purchased as thyroid tablets. The medication is taken orally and can be used by patients of all ages, including newborns with hypothyroidism. Armour Thyroid is a relatively new medication, and it has not been subjected to extensive clinical trials.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not yet approved the use of Armour Thyroid for the treatment of hypothyroidism.
What conditions are treated with Armour Thyroid?
Armour Thyroid is most commonly used for the treatment of hypothyroidism. While it is also used to treat other thyroid disorders, such as certain types of goiters or some forms of thyroid cancer.
Hypothyroidism is a common condition that is estimated to affect up to 30 million people, about 60 percent of which do not know they have a thyroid condition. Hypothyroidism is a chronic illness, but it can be managed with appropriate treatment.
Hypothyroidism is a disorder in which the body does not produce enough thyroid hormones. Although many people are most familiar with the thyroid’s effect on weight, thyroid hormones carry out a number of important functions in the body, including regulating the metabolism, aiding digestion, and promoting growth and repair of the cells in the body.
There are three types of hypothyroidism, all of which can be treated with Armour Thyroid. Primary hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid is being stimulated properly, but the body cannot produce enough of the thyroid hormones needed by the body.
Secondary hypothyroidism occurs when the pituitary gland does not stimulate the thyroid to produce enough hormones. In tertiary hypothyroidism, the hypothalamus does not direct the pituitary gland to stimulate the thyroid to produce enough hormones.
Although each of the different types of hypothyroidism have different causes, all of the different types of hypothyroidism are treated with Armour Thyroid in the same way and they all have the same symptoms.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- Weight gain
- Slowed heart rate
- Impaired memory
- Enlarged thyroid gland
- Heavier than normal or irregular menstrual periods
- Increased sensitivity to cold
- Dry skin
- Puffy face
- Muscle weakness
- Thinning hair
- Elevated blood cholesterol level
- Pain, stiffness, or swelling in the joints
- Muscle aches, tenderness, and stiffness
How does Armour Thyroid work?
Armour Thyroid is a tablet that contains both T3 and T4, which are the two main thyroid hormones that are naturally produced in the body.
T3 has more than four times the level of activity in the body as T4, and the body uses T4 to make T3. Although the body produces about 15 times as much T4 as it does T3, some people have a difficult time converting T4 into T3. While many treatments for hypothyroidism work by replacing T4 and increasing the amount found in the body, this type of treatment doesn’t work for people who cannot properly convert T4 into T3.
By providing both T4 and T3 in one medication, Armour Thyroid is able to help balance these hormones in the body.
What side effects are associated with Armour Thyroid?
Most of the side effects that are attributed to Armour Thyroid occur as a result of taking too much of the medication. When too much or too little Armour Thyroid is taken, it can cause hormonal imbalances that cause unpleasant side effects.
Most side effects associated with the medication can be avoided if patients take exactly the amount of Armour Thyroid that their doctors prescribe and take the medication at the same time each day while carefully following all prescribing instructions.
Side effects of Armour Thyroid that require medical attention include:
- Lack of appetite
- Trouble sleeping
- Rapid weight loss
- Rapid mood changes
- Changes in menstrual cycle
- Increased appetite
- Hot flashes
- Shallow breathing
- Cramps in your legs
- Muscle weakness
It is possible to overdose on Armour Thyroid if you take too much of the medication.
While rare, overdose is possible and can be extremely dangerous. Overdosing on Armour Thyroid is a medical emergency, so patients should seek immediate emergency medical treatment if they experience any of the following symptoms:
- Severe rash
- Fast heartbeat
- Extreme anxiety
- Chest pain or tightness
- Swelling of the limbs
The majority of side effects caused by Armour Thyroid are attributed to an overabundance of hormones in the body, which is caused by taking a larger dose of the medication than needed.
While most side effects of Armour Thyroid are caused by taking too much of the medication, side effects can also occur when a patient takes too little of their prescription.
Medications like Armour Thyroid can make a significant impact on the levels of hormones in the body with even a small change to the dosage of the medication, so patients should not change their dose of Armour Thyroid or take it differently than prescribed prior to discussing the changes with a licensed healthcare professional.
As a general rule, patients who take too much of the medication are likely to experience side effects that are similar to the symptoms of hyperthyroidism, including fast heart rate, feeling nervous or anxious, weight loss, trouble sleeping, heart palpitations, and muscle weakness. When too little Armour Thyroid is consumed, patients will continue to experience the effects of hypothyroidism, which include tiredness, constipation, weight gain, muscle weakness, and hair loss.
If you are experiencing unpleasant side effects as a result of taking Armour Thyroid, most can be resolved by sticking to the dose prescribed by your doctor and taking your medication at the same time each day.
Patients who are unable to find relief by following the prescription instructions may benefit from using a dietary supplement that is specially designed to mitigate the effects of thyroid medications like Armour Thyroid.