What Happens If You Stop Taking Your Thyroid Medication

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It’s a question that’s been asked many times on my Facebook group:

What happens if you stop taking your thyroid medication?

For one reason or another, you might be wondering if you can get by without it. Perhaps you don’t feel any better on it, perhaps you feel worse or it gives you some side effects. It could be expensive for you to maintain or you might not be keen on taking any pills for whatever reason.

You may even be wondering how long can I go without thyroid medication?

I’m often asked:

  • What happens if I don’t take my thyroid medicine?
  • Can you stop taking thyroid medication once you start?

However, it’s very important to be aware that failing to take your thyroid medication opens you up to many health risks. Having thyroid disease is serious.

As adequate levels of thyroid hormone are needed for every function of the body, not having enough would open you up to:

And the most serious of all, a myxedema coma, which, although uncommon, can be fatal. This is a loss of brain function as a result of longstanding, severely low level of thyroid hormones. It is considered a life-threatening complication of hypothyroidism that develops over quite a long amount of time.

At the end of the day, whatever your reason is for not wanting to take your thyroid medication anymore, don’t just stop it. Instead:

1. Talk to your doctor about trying another thyroid medication if you feel no better on it, have side effects, or take a look at my list of ideas for other reasons you might still be feeling unwell even when on thyroid medication. Even if you feel worse since starting the medication, never just stop taking it. Explore it is.

2. Talk to your doctor or insurance provider if applicable, about payment plans or sorting out something more affordable, if affordability is the issue. Some thyroid patients look in to self-sourcing their own thyroid medication, as this can be less expensive, but it is incredibly risky and not recommended. Medications are always best prescribed and dosed by a medical professional.

3. If you’re wanting to explore being able to live without thyroid medication and stabilising your condition through diet and lifestyle alone (which reportedly can be done but I must admit doesn’t seem overly common), consult a functional doctor for example and be extremely cautious. Many actually end up needing thyroid hormone replacement for life, even after putting their Hashimoto’s in to remission.

4. Or learn to look at your thyroid medication as an essential part of living for you – just like food and water, instead of looking at it negatively. Read this.

You can click on the hyperlinks in the above post to learn more and see references to information give.

If you found this article beneficial, please take a moment to share it so we can help others get better with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto's, whilst also raising awareness. "Be Your Own Thyroid Advocate."

Written by Rachel, The Invisible Hypothyroidism

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37 thoughts on “What Happens If You Stop Taking Your Thyroid Medication

  1. Hello
    I was taking Levothyroxine for three years. I felt that it wasn’t helping me, I stopped the meds two and one half years ago..Because I was still getting the symptoms…Heart Palpitations, muscle weakness, lightheadedness, headaches, Fluctuations of Blood Pressure, Frequent Urination…
    Also, Dx with Autonomic and Small Fiber Neuropathy
    Now, my symptoms are worse..BP is very unpredictable and dangerously High or Low…BP meds do not help, I take the BP meds only when the BP goes too high only for a couple of days, because the meds make the pressure go very low..ie..76/57 close to fainting..Muscle pain a lot worse, etc..
    Thank You for your blog and For Reading my message
    Maria

  2. I have been on levothyroxine for about 2 years now and just lately developed swelling in my legs and feet with a rash and itching hives. I saw my gp and told him I know it’s a reaction from the meds. I told him I wanted to try Armour to see if that would do any good. has anyone had this experience and can I stay off any meds for a few days before I start the Armour ?

  3. I have thyroid problems and I have problems getting medication in my location. And I’ve been off of it for a week. They stopped my SSA check, which I need to pay and it’s hard to get one. There’s nobody available and they can’t help me with anything about it. They say it’s not their problem about the medication I take. I don’t know what to do if I don’t take them. I just don’t care no more if social security don’t care about my health so why should I? Its hard I have asked for help and been turned down.

  4. Hi, Im 31 years old and last year was diagnosed with hypothyroid.I started feeling worse everyday and I couldnt barely manage my life. I was angry all the time and took it out on my daughter and boyfriend. I became extremely fatigue that I would pass out standing up at work. Then the worse pain or some kind of weird throughout my body; that made me clench up. So I did alot of research and decided to stop taking the meds. Then everything was fading away; like my pain and fatigue. The doctors gave me meds at 4.0 which i dont think should have been put on meds so fast. Its day six now, and im still feeling great and even getting better by the day.

    1. Hi Megan – sorry to hear you didn’t feel any better on your thyroid meds. Do bear in mind that they take a good few weeks to leave the system so you may not feel the full effects for a little while yet. A TSH of 4 can cause issues in some people but with others they feel fine. Hopefully you’re working with your doctor to monitor how you do off them and I’m worried about you feeling worse in the long run. It is possible that you were not converting well (if you were on T4 only meds) which can make you feel worse but please ensure your full thyroid panel is checked going forward, including the important Free T3.

  5. what are the things that happen if I suddenly get off my thyroid medication ,,,, the phar. cant get them been off them for about three weeks

    1. Yikes.

      I just refilled mine last week and had no problem.

      You should probably go talk to your doctor about it and see about maybe getting it from another source.

      Once you art taking them again, it can take a couple of months or more for the levels to build back up. Because of that, the symptoms you start to have again will not just disappear when you start taking it again.

    1. Being ‘in range’ and being ‘optimal’ are very different and impact how we feel by quite a bit. If you haven’t already then I’d recommend starting with a copy of your bloods when on the different meds and seeing if either are optimal. It takes around 6-8 weeks to stabilise on any dose though.

  6. Hi,
    I have been hypo for 4 years. Eltroxin never agreed with me, still felt very unwell and caused a lot of pain. Finally changed to Ndt beginning of October and that seemed to be worse. Nose, ears and throat felt as if they were closing plus stiff neck. Persisted for 6 weeks on it, but had to throw in the towel and give up on it. I have a migraine 24/7 and can barely function. Endo said go back on eltroxin, which I tried, but that seemed to do the same. My gp said to stop thyroid meds for now to see what is going on with my head. Feel like my brain is on fire any medication, even a vitamin tablet that I take seems to just set my head on fire. Don’t know what to do now. Anyone any ideas?

    1. Hi Trish, did you have you levels tested when on ndt to see what it was doing to your levels? It can take a while for your body to adjust to any meds but I’m wondering if the dose was too low?

  7. Hi, I have not been great at taking my meds for hyperthyroidism for a long time. Partly due to a crazy busy life and partly due to not liking taking tablets. I had my bloods taking on Friday morning by Friday afternoon the doctors surgery called me to say, my functions were so low they couldn’t understand how I was ever walking around! I got a scare and how to take them daily. I was always on such a high dose, 275 eltrocion I’m hoping regular testing and taking my meds will bring this down.

  8. Hi there I’ve had underactive thyroud for 8 years and take levethyroxine 100mg and for the last month I’ve stop cosi got a bad asthma cough which only went when stop medication I was told go back on it 100mg a day soon as I did feel wasted and cough got bad again so back and forwards to doc not much happen….my levels were perfect egore I stop but this cough is bad hard to breath so now stop meds cos made eyes swell head sore so not sure what to do

  9. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism in feb 2018.my doctor asked me to take only one tablet on daily basis for six months. Should i stop taking it now because im lacking in periods from the last two months.

  10. I was told I had a low thyroid in Feb 2018, I was trying to get pregnant and it wasn’t happening so my dr put me on syntheoid 75mg two months later we were pregnant. I have had some major bleeds so far one at 7 weeks and one at 13 (currently 19 weeks) after my last bleed I slowly stopped taking my pills in fear it was causing the bleeds. It has been about 5 weeks since I stopped but my question is can I start back on them? Or do I need to get my levels checked first in case I need a different dose? I know I shouldn’t have stopped but I’m worried now if I start back up it will harm baby even though I was told it was safe to take while pregnant.

    1. Hi Kim, stopping taking your thyroid medication is exposed you to a lot of risks and whilst pregnant, even more risks. And risks to your unborn child. Does your doctor know you’ve stopped your meds and are they monitoring you closely? You can (and I recommend) starting straight back on your previous dose. You don’t need to build them back up.

  11. Hi i was diagnosed with Hypothyroidsim in 1996 at the age of 19. i was on medicatiion for a while & i was told that it would be lifelong. Its been more that 15 years that i stopped the medication but continued to do regular blood checks every year. This has come back normal & with range every single time. My doctors advise was not to interfere with it. My concern is now I am 41& am having a whole lot of symptoms of fatigue, restlessness, severe joint & muscle pain, tiredness & the list goes on… I been to my GP again & she done a full blood count as well as checked my Tsh levels & its all come back normal. Im very confused about this.

  12. I have been taking recently the Synthroid med now for tthree months my dr checked my thyroid level and she said im supposee to take 50mg on weekends and 75mg on weekdays im just curious if that actually helps i have been losing alot of hair im worried about my hair i have long beautiful hair any suggestions plz thank u

  13. Hello, I’ve been on a very low dose of levothyroxine for about 2 years…last week my hair fell out, yes, I now have a number hair cut after losing all of mmmy shoulder length curls…had bloods done and my levels are low so my dose has been upped..and have to go back in 3 months..my doctor is lovely but I really don’t understand why all my hair fell out, in a way it was good because I wouldn’t of been due too have my levels checked for a couple of months, so they obviously did a different test as not long had one…but why all of a sudden did it all fall out..doc just said, it can happen…but why.. I really a.m. confused…Sacha uk

  14. Hi!
    Looking for some advice love.
    I’ve been diagnosed with hypothyroidism since I was 13 but have been in and off taken the meds since then. I now haven’t had my period for three months… you reckon if I start taking my meds properly I’ll go back to normal?

    Cheers love ❤️

    1. Hi Michi, Usually once your body needs thyroid hormone replacement, it needs it for life. Hypothyroidism can affect your periods hugely. Please get a FULL thyroid panel tested ASAP.

  15. I seem to suffer with all those items which you listed above even whilst medicated on Levothyroxine… Double edged sword much! Just goes to show if one is only treated with T4 then a large portion of patients within the UK are just using up precious overworked/underpaid NHS resources with endless appointments and getting other ‘band aid’ drugs prescribed to them (probably to mess the patient up even more that they’ll require more appointments, eventually surgery, more expensive drugs vicious cycle) – When there is a dispute about the NHS NOT allowing T3 to be prescribed (because “it’s too expensive, not within the NHS budgets blah-blah-blah”, surely the NHS would SAVE on all those endless doctor’s appointments, hospital stays/surgeries, and additional prescriptions… Oh sorry I forgot, greed, greed, greed! – The big Pharmaceutical companies want to make their money in whichever possible, (keep everyone in sick mode and let money make the world go round) Big Pharma has held the NHS at ‘ransom’ for “expensive” T3 for years, only getting addressed in the House of Lords now in 2018!! Still all so very vague and unsatisfactory… Disappointing. ~Tired. How is it that combination T3 and T4 Liothyronine costs about 52p per box when purchasing it without a prescription in Europe? Why did the UK get such a bum deal? Sick and Tired of being the Thyroid hostage in a Body that will not function properly, depressedANDstressed.com

    1. Hi Jane – I have the exact same argument myself! If the pharmaceutical companies weren’t so greedy and warped then the NHS would stand to save money by having thyroid patients on T3 containing medicine because like you say, we wouldn’t need so many other medications, appointments etc. that being inadequately treated on T4 only meds does. I would also argue that pharmaceutical companies want us to stay unwell, hence the pushiness of T4 meds, so we have to use more and more of their medications. I echo everything you’re saying. It’s disgraceful. All the while more and more thyroid patients get more and more sick. But we’re told we’re adequately treated as we’re sent on our way with the hundredth prescription in hand!

    2. Well said. Fed up with the whole Endo lot, and their excuses. I cannot work in my condition, and I have side effects that nobody seems to put together. I feel nauseous, weak and foggy most of the time, plus skin allergies. The UK won’t allow NDT either.

      1. Hi Val, NDT is available for prescription in the UK on a named patient basis. The problem is that most doctors don’t know how to use it.

  16. Im 16 years old and I was just diagnosed with hypothyroidism. I started taking the meds about a month ago and iron along with it. in this time period i didnt get my period but once i finished both i wasnt on anything for about a week, and i got my period. before this the last time i had gotten my period was about two months ago.

  17. I just got off the phone with a nurse for the physicians assistant I’ve been going to since last June.

    I had another blood test last Friday. She has decided that since my thyroid tests are within normal levels at 150 mcg of levothyroxine per day, I no longer need to take thyroid medication at all!

    I think that it is time to shop for a new doctor. I’m going to call the insurance company first to see if I can at least get a refill until I can see another doctor. My current prescription ran out this morning.

    1. I just realized that I hadn’t updated this.

      It turned out that what happened was that the physicians assistant wrote down to continue as before and one of the medical assistants somehow interpreted that to mean that I was to stop taking the thyroid medication.

      I got a call back that afternoon about 5:10. Since the pharmacy closes at 5:30 and isn’t open at all on Saturdays and Sundays, they hurriedly called the pharmacy with the new prescription. I called the pharmacy and told them that I was on my way (it’s 15 miles away). One of the employees of the pharmacy stayed after closing so that I could pick up the prescription. I got there about 5 minutes after their closing time.

  18. Hi I’m 29 year old and Im thyroid patient. recently I stop my thyroid med approx 1 month 13 days due to not available my med here. But problem is that this month my period not came. my previous period date is 23rd jan 2018. This month till now not come my period.is dat any worried to not taking med? Pl help. why my period not coming n when I expect my period pl suggest.

    1. Hi Shampa,

      As thyroid medication is crucial to every cell and function of the body, you cannot be without it. Many functions will begin shutting down such as your periods, so this is a big warning sign. Can you see another doctor/chemist/pharmacy to source your medication?

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