Q. I have been taking thyroid hormones (first Synthroid and then Levoxyl) for more than 15 years. My doctor has recently started lowering my dose because he is concerned that the extra thyroid might weaken my bones.

Ever since the dosage was reduced I have had many troubling symptoms. My cholesterol is going up and so is my weight, although I am exercising and eating carefully. I am tired, cold and depressed most of the time. My skin is dry and my fingertips have painful cracks and my nails are splitting. My hair is thinning and my eyebrows are fading away. Along with all that, I have absolutely no interest in sex. What can I do?

A. Although excess thyroid hormone can weaken bones and contribute to osteoporosis, getting the dose just right is essential for good health. All the symptoms you have described could be linked to insufficient thyroid activity.

We are sending you our Guide to Thyroid Hormones with information on how to interpret thyroid lab results as well as treatment options so you can discuss this with your doctor.

Join Over 52,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

Each week we send two free email newsletters with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies and a preview of our award-winning radio show. Join our mailing list and get the information you need to make confident choices about your health.

  1. Traci
    Chicago
    Reply

    My doctor has me on Tirosent for thyroid and TSH is a 2.83. I am still not feeling as well as I did in the past when the TSH was at 1.8. I told him this and he instructed me to increase dosage Fri-Sun to 150 mg and Mon- Thurs-125 mg. I am just really concerned whether or not 6 weeks of this increase dosage will cause havoc to my bone density. That is my biggest concern. I don’t want osteoporosis later in life.

    I am strongly considering just sticking with the current dosage and forgetting about it. My symptoms are terrible and it’s mostly a concern of weight gain which I know medication for thyroid is not a diet drug.

  2. Jo
    Reply

    I’ve taken Synthroid for over 20 years for hypothyroidism and a year ago my doctor lowered my dosage from 175 to 112 because he felt I was having anxiety-type issues from too high levels. However, other doctors diagnosed me with critically low potassium, Vitamin D and B-12 levels so I began taking those. I truly haven’t felt “right” since he lowered my Synthroid, and I’ve gained 17 pounds, have stomach bloating, lethargic, dry skin, etc. Yet when I broach the subject to my doctor he says my levels are “normal.”
    I’m scared because I know how I feel and truly believe I’m not getting enough Synthroid. How do I convince my doctor without starting all over with a new doctor? I feel we need to at least increase my dosage to 125 to see if it helps.

  3. Katyellen
    Reply

    Have been on Levothyroxin 125mcg for about a year…(100mcg past 20 yrs) and my dr. tested me and my level is 0.05 and my dr said it is at a critical level…He told me to cut my pills in half and we will see in 6 weeks. I never knew that my thin splitting nails and loss of hair on my arms and legs and memory loss etc…could be due to my thyroid.
    This is very disturbing and I would really like to get to the bottom of this. My weight gain has never went down even though I eat little. It’s very frustrating and I would love to feel normal again. (I started gaining after 50 and am now 60).

  4. rebecca
    Reply

    After 20 years with thyroid disease, first subacute viral thyroiditis, then hashimotos, viral thyroiditis a second time, being overdosed on synthroid by a bad doc to the point of thyroid storm, a total thyroidectomy, dose changes of synthroid frequently, addition of cytomel but overdosed again, then disappearing tsh and a doc who kept lowering my dose to bring it up (that never worked even when I was so hypothyroid I was not functional), I can tell you all one thing because I have been there; do a lot of clinical research.
    TSH IS NOT THE ANSWER. If you look up Mary Shomon and find the medically published information on how all this works, you will see why, and that some docs do not believe it and that is why so many are suffering. I finally had a reverse T3 and it was really off. Now I take less synthroid and more cytomel and I have relief and feel pretty normal after 20 years of the same suffering you are all going through. Still no tsh, but it doesn’t matter- you need FT3, FT4, and RT3 and antibodies, and your pituitary and adrenals checked out.
    Has anyone read the fine print on your synthroid info? It says NOT to initiate thyroid hormone replacement until all known and possible adrenal issues are addressed. I’ll bet almost no one has had that done. It’s really hard to find a doc who will work with you, and any doc who thinks you must suffer and not have a life to help your bones- well, without a functioning life who needs bones? If you’re in bed or unable to exercise because you’re so hypothyroid, your bones will get worse anyway. The overdoses got mine, I’m only 58 and they were perfect until a few years ago, but now I can get some exercise and have a life.
    Do your research and I mean medical papers, published research etc. Mary Shomon has a newsletter with info and links. Your eyes will be opened, and you don’t have to accept staying ill- if your doc won’t listen and discuss, find one who will!

  5. Paula
    Reply

    I had a total thyroidectomy 2 months back was put on eltroxine 75mg and it was then raised to 100mg . I have severe joint pain, it is like someone is crushing my joints at times cannot lift a cup and couldn’t drive, by night time I am limping. It appears like my hands have got bigger? Though my bloods were in the normal range I insisted on having my medication increased to 100mg/125g an alternate days. It’s amazing I don’t know the life span of the drug but I have been keeping a record of how I feel and on the day I’m due 125mg I wake in agony then about two/three hours after taking it I’m fine.
    I wake the next day well, take my 100mg, by mid after noon I’m achy and by evening I’m in agony again and don’t sleep. I only upped the med 9 days ago is it too early to up to 125mg everyday or should I give my body a chance to adjust to the new dosage?? Thanks

  6. rebecca
    Reply

    I’ve more or less lost 20 years of my life (I’m now 58) to thyroid disease. First subacute viral, then Hashimoto’s, then both, then surgery 15 years ago because the Hashi became “fibrous variant”. Because I was so sick and 3 biopsies could not procure any tissue to biopsy for possible cancer, my thyroid gland was removed and it was so hardened it took 4 hours to shave it off bit by bit to avoid damaging throat, vocal cords, etc. It was cutting off some of my breathing even.
    I thought my levels of thyroid hormones would even out without it and I’d be fine, but in 2 months I felt like hell again and have ever since. I have a good doc, goes by symptoms and T4 and T3 since my TSH is .01 on average for several years now, and something was obviously very wrong. Here’s the thing: I read about and asked for an RT3 test last month when time for testing, and WHAM! It was 45.2, which is extremely high. So I’m a poor converter and now know that adrenal function is involved as well as iron, which I do not store unless I take it every day, but do not utilize well at all.
    So after 20 years of feeling everything you have all experienced, back and forth and around and around, maybe there is now some hope that things will finally improve with adrenal treatment so that the meds will work like they are supposed to. I went from young through middle age to old and I’ll never get that time back, and I don’t want other people to be this sick and lose years of their lives, so FIND A DOCTOR that will do an RT3 with the other tests and check your adrenal function and iron.
    It is hard, as many of you have discovered, to find such a doctor, but this is your life- Thyroid function runs your metabolism and all other hormones affect and are affected by it. It is all INCREDIBLY complicated and even my Endo doc wasn’t doing the right stuff. I’ve lost hair, memory, bone integrity, social life, creative thought, and pretty much everything else, but I never quit fighting and now maybe something good will finally happen. FIGHT until somebody helps you, because your life depends on it!

  7. ZIA
    Reply

    I had thyroid surgery in 2005, and my right lobe was removed. I have been on Levothyroxin every since. About 6 months ago my blood showed I was getting too much thyroid hormone so my doctor cut the dosage down a little. Then two weeks ago my thyroid hormones were up again and my dosage cut back even more. I am now going to an endocrine doctor and have been diagnosed with Graves Disease, the opposite of hypothyroidism.
    I want to know if there a connection between my starting statins exactly a year ago. (Crestor). It seems too much of a coincidence that my thyroid numbers were normal for 7 years, and then within a year of taking Crestor my thyroid numbers have not been normal, and I have gone from hypo to hyperthyroidism. I too have muscle aches but not severe. I have itching, which I never knew until I read these comments above, was related to the thyroid meds. Has anyone else had their numbers change after taking statins?

  8. Eva C.
    Reply

    Went to cardiologist, he recommended I talk to GP regarding my 0.56 TSH reading, thought I should raise that number. GP told me to cut my 125 mg lovoxyln in 1/2. Had thyroidectomy 20 years ago and never this low dosage and I am frightened to do it.

  9. M
    Reply

    To Amperia: As I wrote on August 31, my doctor tries to keep my TSH around 1. He says much above that shows the body is calling for more thyroid. Maybe it would be good to find another doctor, one that deals a lot and knows a lot about thyroid, to give you a second opinion. A TSH of 5.43 looks quite high to me; mine was never that high. I think it was around 3 or 4, and I feel better now that it’s closer to 1.

  10. amperia
    Reply

    I just did a routine test for thyroid. My readings are TSH 5.43 and T4 12.0 The physician who saw me said that it was normal and told me to continue with levothyroxine 50mcg on weekdays and 75mcg on weekends. I continue to feel fatigue, sleepy at anytime, bloated stomach, lots of gas and burps, and hair loss. Please advise me. Thank you.
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: YOUR TSH IS A BIT HIGH, SUGGESTING YOUR THYROID HORMONE LEVELS ARE TOO LOW. THAT’S WHAT YOUR SYMPTOMS SUGGEST AS WELL.

  11. M
    Reply

    My doctor watches different levels and aims at keeping the TSH down close to 1.0. Above that, he says, indicates the body is asking for more thyroid.

  12. EE
    Reply

    I had symptoms for years but doctor went by lab results which had me at borderline normal. I was familiar with thyroid and insisted on watching for it as it runs in my family. TSH was finally way off normal and I was put on synthyroid.
    Dosage was increased to 50 which had me feeling OK for a couple of years with TSH in the 2.5 range. It is now almost at TSH 4, I’m tired a lot, my cholesterol is suddenly high. Doctor wouldn’t raise Synthyroid, but tried me on a statin for cholesterol.
    Worst of side effects (severe muscle pain, leg swelling, trouble staying awake, and difficulty urinating) hit while we were away on vacation and away from medical help, so I simply quit taking statin and by the time I was able to get home was much better, so I have no “tests” to prove it.
    How do I get my doctor to forget about statins and just try increasing my thyroid med since high cholesterol is tied into low thyroid? (I will NEVER take statins again, talking to a nurse I know I now know I was about to go into kidney failure.) By the way, my cholesterol was only 226 and except for just before I went on synthyroid, it has never been in the 200s before.

What Do You Think?

Share your thoughts with others, but be mindful of protecting your own and others' privacy. Not all comments will be posted. Advice from web visitors is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. In posting a comment, you agree to our commenting policy and website terms and conditions.