Thyroid will shut down??

I have a friend, 71 yo and has never taken thyroid meds in her life. She's suddenly tired much of the time, is always cold, her voice is hoarse, and she has trouble concentrating. Her TSH is 5.28. I told her I'd be in bed all day if my TSH was 5.28. Anyway, she went to a new doctor and her doc told her that she wants to monitor how she feels. She doesn't want to start her on any thyroid meds because her thyroid may shut down. This pissed me off. She sent my friend off for more bloodwork (TSH, T4, Free T4, TPO) but will not do T3 because she thinks it's irrelevant. Should she switch doctors?

12 Replies

  • PPower, TSH may be elevated due to a non-thyroidal illness so an initial abnormal result is usually tested around 3 months later when a virus or infection may be expected to have resolved.

    It's complete rubbish to say that thyroid replacement will shut down her thyroid. If TSH remains high it's because her thyroid is already shutting down. When TSH is high it's because FT4 and FT3 are low. When thyroid replacement is given FT4 and FT3 will rise and TSH fall. There's no urgency about getting FT3 tested. When your friend's TSH is around 1.0 and FT4 in the upper range, if she still feels symptomatic then she may want to order a private FT3 test.


    I am not a medical professional and this information is not intended to be a substitute for medical guidance from your own doctor. Please check with your personal physician before applying any of these suggestions.

  • I looked at her last few tests and her tsh has been steady at 4+. To me it sounds like she has an issue. I get what you mean re: t3 testing.


  • So your friend's doctor is afraid thyroid hormones will cause her thyroid to 'shut down', so she'd prefer your friend to 'shut down' naturally, i.e. develop other more serious conditions like heart etc.

    It's amazing what doctors don't know of things they should definitely have some knowledge about.

    Other doctors may just have the same viewpoint as they've been told only prescribe when TSH is 10. Thankfully some prescribe around 5 with symptoms.

    You'd have to research local doctors before she changes. Or maybe send a copy of this:-

    from the NHS Choices for info.

    "I am not a medical professional and this information is not intended to be a substitute for medical guidance from your own doctor. Please check with your personal physician before applying any of these suggestions"

  • Right, it didn't make any sense to me. I say it's time for my friend to get a new doctor. Thanks, shaws!

  • shaws, forgot to mention, we're in California.

  • How is her level of B12, and VitD? These can drop as you get older, and they are needed for the thyroid meds to be used properly in the body. As are ferritin, folate, and other vitamins. Might be worth getting them checked. MariLiz

  • My friend got bloodwork done yesterday including b12 and D, possibly ferritin too. I can't wait to see the results. Thanks, MariLiz!

  • Hope all goes well for your friend, let us know what her results are. Best wishes MariLiz

  • Thanks so much, MariLiz!

  • "If I give you food/water/insulin/oxygen you will just need more!"

    I guess the gp is trying - badly - to say that if the tsh is lowered the thyroid will stop struggling to provide the inadequate amount of hormone it is already sometimes unable to provide. But this can be true of a malfunctioning pancreas and they don't deprive you of insulin to 'see how you feel'. If only my thyroid would shut down, but it keeps sputtering to life so I'm never on the same dose of meds for long.

  • I have heard the "shut down" story and never really understood it. BUT, this was within the context of my TSH getting very low (below .02) and the doctor theorizing that my dose was too high. So, it has been reduced from 200mcg Synthroid to 175mcg. Now that it's a lower dose I don't feel any different and will re-test in a couple months. It does sound like she needs to see a different doctor if they're sitting on their hands with a TSH that high. It doesn't matter how old she is, she needs thyroid whether natural or supplemented. May I suggest that you order some Armour online? It's easy to get in the states on the Anti Aging Central website. I'd start with the .5 grain Armour and see "how she feels", which will likely be a lot better. From there you can test yourself or have a doctor test and adjust as necessary. Yeah, I know the finger-wagging people will say not to self-medicate and that only a doctor knows. I say, stop treating us like ignorant children. Good luck and I hope she is willing to take matters into her own hands.

  • My friend got her labwork results and they are as follows:

    TSH: 5.45 (it's gone up a bit)

    FT4: 1.2 (.82 - 1.77)

    Thyroid Peroxidase: <10 (0-34)

    Her doc was going to test iron, D, B12 too but only tested B12 which was 999 (she's supplementing).

    Her doc said, no, the Endocrinologist weighted in:

    "Since she does not have +Ab there is no evidence of underlying autoimmune thyroid disease and her TSH is appropriate for her age. Fatigue is a quite non specific symptom and in the setting of normal thyroid hormone levels Levothyroxine should not be used. Should also be used with caution in the elderly because of potential for arrhythmias."

    Really? Appropriate for her age?? (71 yo)

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