The road one travels while treating hypothyroidism based on laboratory tests is strewn with potholes. Every doctor who treats hypothyroidism sees discrepancy when comparing blood test results with how the patient reports feeling. This failure to find an explanation for a patient’s symptoms may result in the physician determining that the patient has a psychosomatic illness.
Years ago, before blood tests and synthetic drugs were available, doctors relied on patients’ histories and physical exams to diagnose and treat them. If patients presented with symptoms and physical findings that fit the clinical picture of hypothyroidism, they would then be prescribed the only agent available at that time, whole glandular thyroid from pig (porcine) thyroid. This preparation, known as U. S. Armour Thyroid, contains mostly T4 as well as some T3.
A small but growing group of doctors have continued this tradition of listening to patients’ symptoms while carefully taking their history and performing a physical examination in addition to using blood tests. They have continued to treat hypothyroidism with natural, whole, desiccated glandular thyroid.
This natural time-tested approach more often results in improvement in mood and mental functioning–symptoms often not improved by the more commonly used prescription drugs.
An article in the New England Journal of Medicine reported research suggesting Synthroid use resulted in no improvement in 17 parameters measuring memory, mood, language, and learning. The use of Armour thyroid however, resulted in improvement in 6 of the 17 parameters. (NEJM 1999;340:424-429, 469-470.)