As a woman gets older, she may dismiss symptoms like fatigue, weight gain, and painful joints as a natural part of the aging process. But Marla Ahlgrimm, founder of Women’s Health America, regularly sees patients suffering from these very symptoms and, in some cases, hormone therapy can return a woman to a happy, healthy life. Marla Ahlgrimm reports that, according to the National Thyroid Institute, millions of women have been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) and hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) and many more remain undiagnosed. A pioneer in the field of women’s health, Marla Ahlgrimm explains that thyroid related symptoms can mimic some symptoms of PMS and menopause making treatment frustrating if symptoms don’t improve. Several tests are available to identify thyroid problems early and begin treatment, Marla Ahlgrimm says.
The better way to test, Marla Ahlgrimm explains, is to use the sensitive serum TSH test combined with a “free T4 and free T3” test. This is the most thorough and accurate test, and according to Marla Ahlgrimm, it’s sensitive enough to identify thyroid disease even in its earlier stages. “TSH is thyroid stimulating hormone, produced by the pituitary gland,” pharmacist Marla Ahlgrimm, co-founder of Madison Pharmacy Associates, states. “TSH stimulates the thyroid gland to produce triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), which regulate the metabolism of fat, protein, and sugar.” Hypothyroidism happens when the TSH level is high, T4 level is too low, or when the T4 level is normal and T3 level is low.
The thyroid testing test can be expensive, but Marla Ahlgrimm points out that the price has decreased over the years. The test involves a blood sample which must be analyzed by a laboratory and most clinic laboratories perform this test. The test should always be done in women of menopausal age, Marla Ahlgrimm recommends, and three main factors should be taken into consideration before undergoing the sensitive serum TSH test: family history, presence of an autoimmune disease, or enlarged thyroid or goiter.
According to Marla Ahlgrimm, co-founder of Madison Pharmacy Associates, additional tests are available, such as a “free T4 and free T3” test. But this test measures the amount of T4 and T3 that is “free” or available to act in the thyroid receptors as compared to total T3 and Total T4 where much of the thyroid hormone is bound to protein and unavailable.
Hypothyroidism: Underactive Thyroid
Hypothyroidism has two forms, says Marla Ahlgrimm, primary and secondary. In primary hypothyroidism, the thyroid itself malfunctions, producing too little T4 and causing symptoms such as fatigue, weight gain, and depression, explains Marla Ahlgrimm. Primary hypothyroidism can be caused by disease or an autoimmune condition, according to Dr. Marla Ahlgrimm. Secondary hypothyroidism has several causes. One can be that the pituitary gland isn’t producing enough TSH. Unlike primary hypothyroidism, the pituitary gland is malfunctioning instead of the thyroid, Marla Ahlgrimm says. While the causes may be different, the results are similar—you may feel lethargic and depressed, among other symptoms. The thyroid test can detect both primary and secondary hypothyroidism, signaling your doctor to do further tests, adds Marla Ahlgrimm.
Probably the most common cause of thyroid deficiency symptoms in aging women is due to subclinical hypothyroidism when TSH is slightly elevated and T4 and T3 are low.
Pharmacist Marla Ahlgrimm says many doctors will prescribe Synthroid, which is a synthetic form of T4 but many others prefer natural thyroid or desiccated thyroid. One brand is called Armour Thyroid which contains T3 and T4 as well as other thyroid hormone derivatives naturally found in the thyroid gland. Your doctor also can prescribe a customized thyroid hormone prescription prepared by a pharmacist for you. Available both in a prescription tablet and capsule form, thyroid must also be closely monitored, cautions Marla Ahlgrimm.
For more information, contact Marla Ahlgrimm at firstname.lastname@example.org