Lithium and hypothyroidism

Lithium and Hypothyroidism

Many such cases have also come forward when many of the patients did not show any particular symptoms of hypothyroidism but still through blood screening, it was found that they have been suffering from this disorder.  However, one should not worry because hypothyroidism is not such a disease that cannot be treated.  There are many treatments available that enable the thyroid glands to function properly and start producing hormones so that the patient may start to recover from the illness.  Though many of the patients recover from hypothyroidism but still they face goiter and iodine shortage throughout their lives.

If hypothyroidism is left untreated, then it can lead the patients towards a stage called myxedema coma.  There are many symptoms of this disorder. The person might start to suffer from constipation, low heart rate, breathing problem,  low body temperature, problem in urination etc. There are certain drugs whose intake cause hypothyroidism.

Interesting Questions about Thyroid:

Surgery (Thyroidectomy)

When is surgery performed?

Surgery (thyroidectomy) is the primary treatment for suspected thyroid cancer and can be used to treat hyperthyroidism. Surgery is used to remove large goiters that make breathing or swallowing difficult. Occasionally, a goiter may be removed for cosmetic reasons.Can you tell me more about cancer surgery?

If thyroid cancer is suspected, your doctor will recommend surgery. The surgeon usually removes only one lobe of the thyroid, unless cancer is confirmed at surgery. A section of the gland is tested during surgery (frozen section) to tell the surgeon whether it is cancerous (malignant) or not cancerous (benign). If it is malignant, all or most of the thyroid is removed. If the cancer has spread outside of the thyroid, lymph nodes in the neck may also have to be removed. In addition, radioactive iodine therapy may be needed six weeks after surgery to destroy any remaining cancer tissue.

How is the cancer surgery operation done?

The operation is usually performed under general anesthesia and takes about two hours. After surgery, patients may stay in the hospital for up to three days. They may also need to take some time off from work (a week or two for a desk job and three to four weeks for physical labor).

Are there any risks to thyroid surgery?

Thyroid surgery is a safe treatment. However, as with any surgery, there are risks. About 1% of patients develop problems with normal speech caused by damage to nerves leading to the voice box, which lies very close to the thyroid. Occasionally, there may be damage to the parathyroid glands, which control the level of calcium in the blood. If this happens, the patient will need to take calcium and other medicines to prevent future problems. Minor risks of surgery include infection, bleeding, and a scar. The chance of death is very small.

What can be expected with thyroid surgery?

  • Patients will be in the hospital for one to three days.
  • Surgery is usually done under general anesthesia and lasts about two hours.
  • A small cut approximately three to four inches long is made along the natural crease of the neck.
  • After going to the recovery room for a few hours, patients are returned to their rooms. Patients can usually get out of bed, eat, and have visitors the evening of the surgery.
  • It can take up to a year for the scar to heal and the redness to disappear.
  • Because most of the thyroid gland is removed, some patients will have to begin lifelong thyroid hormone replacement.

What are the possible complications of thyroid surgery?

  • The four parathyroid glands located around the thyroid gland can be accidentally damaged causing low calcium levels that can lead to muscle spasms, convulsions, and the formation of cataracts, if untreated.
  • Minor voice changes are not uncommon, but only 1% of those operated on have major voice problems. The nerves from the larynx (voice box) are very near the thyroid gland and sometimes pass through the gland. It is sometimes unavoidable that they are damaged during surgery.
  • As with any surgery, there is the risk of surgical death, bleeding, and infection.
What About Women and Thyroid Disease?


  • means too much thyroid hormone
  • affects 2.5 million people in the United States
  • affects 2% of all women in the United States
  • affects women 5 to 10 times more than men
  • can cause infertility and miscarriage

Graves’ disease


  • means too little thyroid hormone
  • affects 5 million Americans
  • affects women 10 times more than men
  • affects 1 out of every 4,000 infants born
  • can cause infertility and miscarriage

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis

Postpartum thyroiditis

  • occurs in 5% – 9% of women after giving birth
  • is usually temporary but can recur with future pregnancies

Thyroid nodules

  • affect 4% – 7% of the population
  • are benign 90% of the time
  • are less likely to be cancerous in women

*Autoimmune diseases run in families and are 5 times more common in women than men.

What are the Facts for People Given Radiation (X-ray) Treatments as Children?

Between one and two million Americans received radiation treatments in childhood or adolescence between 1920 and 1960. The most common reasons for these treatments were:

  • enlarged thymus gland
  • acne
  • ringworm
  • enlarged tonsils and adenoids
  • various chest conditions

The risk factor for developing thyroid cancer if you had childhood radiation treatments is between 2% and 7% as compared to .004% in the general population.

There have been cases of side effects from radiation treatments (not radioactive iodine treatments) reported as long as 45 years after treatment.

Most physicians agree that the thyroid gland of these patients should be checked annually.

Some physicians rely solely on physical (manual) examination of patients treated as children with radiation. Others prefer to perform scans or ultrasounds for nodules too small to detect manually that might be cancerous.

A person treated as a child with radiation can request that their medical records be sent to them by writing the hospital or clinic where they had the treatments. Ask for a record of how much each dose of radiation was as well as how often and over what period of time treatments were given.

Have more questions? Need more answers? Check our Full Thyroid FAQ

Lithium and hypothyroidism are interrelated

Lithium is given to the patients in order to treat the thyroid disorder. Some of the patients experience hyperthyroidism because of lithium. Chances for the patient to die are about 30 to 60 percent.  Some of the patients die because of heart attack.

Thyroiditis is another problem that can occur because of untreated hypothyroidism.  It is also a thyroid gland infection. This may not occur in all patients because thyroid is not associated with any kind of infection. Those people who might get infection may have to face symptoms such as rashes, pain in neck, temperature and swallowing problem.

Hypothyroidism influences the mind of the patient to a great deal. Many of the patients have to face depression.  This depression seems to be without any special reason. In women of older age, hypothyroidism can be a cause of severe depression.

Other than depression, the behavior of the patient suffering from hypothyroidism is also influenced.  A person might even lose his memory.

Other problems that are caused by hypothyroidism include:

  • Problem in breathing
  • Kidney problem
  • Iron deficiency
  • Headache
  • Pain in the joints
  • Extremely dry skin

Women have to face a lot of problems because of hypothyroidism. The major one is that they do not get to be pregnant. Many of the women come to know that they had been suffering from hypothyroidism when they go for the intercourse for the very 1st time.  Other than this, a pregnant woman who is suffering from hypothyroidism has high chances of having a miscarriage.  Even if the woman successfully gets to be pregnant, she will have to face many complications in her delivery. Many of them have to go for premature delivery and some have to face problems related to high blood pressure.

The patients have lithium are likely to suffer from hypothyroidism.

Those patients who are having lithium treatment for their goiter problem should be really careful about getting a thyroid test.

Because of hypothyroidism, many of the patients have to experience weight gain. It is not necessary that the person might eat a lot and gain weight. Weight can also be gained because of swelling of the tissues and increase in body fats.

Hypothyroidism has also resulted in low heart rate.  The blood pressure of the patient increases and his hearing sense becomes weak. One does not feel like doing the day to day work and oxygen level in the body is also decreased.  Many of the patients have died because of hypothyroidism as they faced cardiac arrest.

Before it gets to be too late, it is better that the Lithium and hypothyroidism problem is taken to the doctor so that he starts to diagnose the problem and begins with the treatment as soon as possible.

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