Consequences can be quite serious
If you don’t take thyroid medications for your thyroid disease, you can experience a number of serious long-term effects. Some of the effects of skipping or discontinuing your thyroid medication are obvious, while others are subtle or can even remain unnoticeable for years.
Effects of Skipping Your Thyroid Hormone Replacement Medication
If you are hypothyroid—whether due to Hashimoto’s, Graves’ disease treatment, thyroid surgery, or congenital hypothyroidism—failing to take your thyroid hormone replacement medication can pose many risks to your health.
These risks include:
- Blood pressure irregularities
- Elevated cholesterol, including treatment-resistant high cholesterol and increased risk of heart disease
- Low body temperature; feeling perpetually cold
- Fatigue, muscle weakness, or joint pain
- Memory problems
- Weight gain; inability to lose weight despite diet and exercise
- Infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth, or premature labor
- Menstrual irregularities
- Loss or reduction of sex drive
- Hair loss
- Swollen hands, feet, and face
- Growth of thyroid nodules, increasing goiter size
- Increased risk of infection
Ultimately, if you are deprived of thyroid hormone for a long period of time, you face the risk of a very dangerous condition—myxedema coma—which can ultimately be fatal.
Of particular importance, if you have had thyroid cancer, you can actually face an increasedrisk of thyroid cancer recurrence if you don’t take your medication.
Effects of Skipping Your Antithyroid Medication
If you have Graves’ disease, toxic nodules, thyroiditis, or another cause of hyperthyroidism, you may need to take antithyroid medication such as methimazole or propylthiouracil/PTU. If you skip or completely discontinue your medicine, you can experience a number of short-term and long-term consequences, including:
- Debilitating weight loss or weight gain
- Dramatically increased appetite and thirst
- Nervousness, anxiety, panic attacks
- Heat intolerance, sweating
- Fatigue or muscle weakness
- Diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting
- Menstrual irregularities
- Goiter/enlarged thyroid
- Muscle weakness
- Rapid pulse, heart palpitations, or high blood pressure
- Hair loss
- Protruding eyes
Untreated hyperthyroidism can increase your risk of stroke or heart attack. It can also increase the risk of developing a dangerous condition known as thyroid storm, which has a high fatality rate.
Reasons and Solutions
Clearly, there are sensible health reasons to take your prescribed thyroid medication. There are experiences, however, that may cause you to question the benefits, as well as preferences and circumstances that can influence how well you adhere to your medication plan.If you are not taking your thyroid medication because of one or more of the following reasons, take the provided advice to heart so that you can seek changes that both keep you feeling your best and address your concerns.
You Don’t Feel Any Better
Thyroid medications do not usually work rapidly. It can take a few days to a few weeks for you to even start noticing a difference in how you feel. If you don’t feel better after taking your medication for several months, you may need a dosage adjustment or a change in medication—not a complete stop of your regimen.
You Experience New or Worsening Symptoms
If you have lived with untreated thyroid disease for years, you may have gotten used to living with symptoms. When starting medication, your appetite may change, you may be feeling tired, or you could experience a change in your bowel movements.Some thyroid medications can also cause hair loss, which most find frustrating and undesirable.Discuss these issues with your doctor, as they can be the effects of normalization of your thyroid hormone levels or even overtreatment of your condition. You may need a dose adjustment or a different medication.
You’re Worried About Side Effects
Keep in mind that the risk of serious side effects is extremely small, and it is far lower than the risks of remaining untreated. Side effects are also most likely to occur within the first three months of treatment, so that is the time to be most vigilant.
You Can’t Afford Your Medication
It’s Difficult to Remember to Take Your Dose
You’d Prefer to Use Natural Remedies
You Like How Hyperthyroidism Makes You Feel
Feeling Conflicted About Your Thyroid Medication
You need to be involved in the decisions regarding your care, and how you feel about your medication and its effects are of central importance. With a thyroid condition, your symptoms can be a good reflection of how well the medication is working. But the constellation of symptoms and side effects associated with thyroid disease can make it difficult to know whether you feel better overall with or without your thyroid medication.Since you may be conflicted about your thyroid medication, it is a good idea to think about your reasons for feeling so conflicted, to discuss these reasons with your doctor, and to fully understand the consequences of untreated thyroid disease.
A Word From Verywell
Most people who have thyroid disease feel better with the appropriate medication. However, thyroid disease is complicated, and you can develop new symptoms when you begin your treatment, either due to the wrong medication dose or the way that your body compensates and responds to the medication. Sometimes, it can take a few months to adjust your medication, but the end result is well worth it. Again, be sure to discuss any concerns with your doctor and do not cease taking your medication without consulting with her first.