Medically reviewed by
Dr. Natalie Bessom, D.O. Board-certified family medicine doctor with specialty training in nutrition, USA
Have you been diagnosed with a thyroid condition? Are you currently on medication to manage a thyroid problem? If yes, you may have wondered about the consequences of missing a dose or more of your thyroid medication at some point.
There are various reasons why someone would miss taking their thyroid medication. Perhaps you feel your symptoms have gotten worse since you began taking the medication, and you’re wondering if missing a dose or few might make you feel better.
Sometimes, the reason is just as mundane as simply forgetting to take your medication. You may have also had an emergency that rendered you unable to take your medicines at the right time.
Whatever the reason, it is essential to understand that skipping or completely getting off your thyroid medication without consulting your doctor is not a good idea.
The thyroid gland is a small butterfly-shaped organ located in the neck that regulates vital functions all over the body, including energy metabolism.
When this gland is defective, the entire body is negatively impacted. There are different thyroid medications for different thyroid conditions. If you are hypothyroid (whether due to Hashimoto’s disease, congenital hypothyroidism, or even thyroid surgery) or hyperthyroid (whether due to Graves’ disease, toxic multinodular goiter, or thyroiditis), you will typically require thyroid hormone replacement or antithyroid medications respectively to manage your condition effectively.
For instance, levothyroxine is prescribed to hypothyroid patients to help make up for inadequate levels of thyroxine, while other drugs like methimazole are administered in cases of hyperthyroidism to help combat the excessive production of thyroid hormones.
Since thyroid hormones affect nearly every organ in the body, a problem with their underproduction or overproduction yields adverse effects evident in an array of symptoms associated with hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
These medications are hence necessary to offset hormonal imbalances by providing the body the adequate levels of thyroid hormones needed for normal bodily functions, including digestion, weight, heart rate, breath, and heart rate.
This, therefore, underscores the need for these medications to be taken religiously as prescribed in order to avoid undesirable symptoms or complications.
This article will highlight the following:
- What could happen as a result of skipping your thyroid medication?
- What you should do if you have missed a dose of your thyroid medication?
What are the likely effects of skipping my thyroid medication?
It is highly advised that thyroid patients never miss a dose of their medication.
Missing just a single daily dose of your medication may not significantly impact your overall thyroid hormone levels or symptoms if you have been taking your medications as prescribed for a long time.
Essentially, the more doses you miss, the more likely you are to develop complications characterized by severe symptoms of your thyroid condition.
If you’re hypothyroid and you skip your medication, you may develop the following symptoms:
- Weight gain
- Cold intolerance
- High cholesterol
- Dry skin
- Muscle weakness, aches, tenderness, or stiffness
- Thinning hair
- Impaired memory
- Reduced sex drive
- Irregular menstrual cycle
- Myxedema coma (a potentially fatal condition that could arise in the extreme case of prolonged deprivation of thyroid hormones)
If you’re hyperthyroid and you skip your medication, you may develop the following symptoms:
- Weight loss
- Heat intolerance and sweating
- High blood pressure
- Enlarged thyroid (goiter)
- Diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting
- Heart palpitations
- Hair loss
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Irregular menstrual cycle
- Thyroid storm (a life-threatening condition that could arise in the extreme case of prolonged deprivation of thyroid hormones)
In either case, it cannot be overemphasized that you should not only avoid skipping your medication but also be consistent in taking your daily pills at the same time as prescribed. This helps for optimal absorption of the drug.
I missed taking my medication. What now?
Suppose you missed taking your medication at the regular time, probably because you forgot. In that case, you should strive to take it as soon as you remember.
However, remember that you will have to take it on an empty stomach as you usually would, especially for a thyroid hormone replacement medication like levothyroxine.
If you remembered to take your medication way too late, you should wait till the nearest regular time to take your medication then. If you’ve missed your dose two consecutive times or more, you should immediately contact your doctor.
Your doctor will help you get back on track with your treatment regimen. Deciding to take a double dose to compensate for a previously missed dose is not advisable.
You should, however, try as much as possible to resume your usual schedule of taking the drug.
The primary reason for taking thyroid medication at the same time every day is to maintain homeostasis, which is a state of balance in internal, physical, and chemical conditions of body systems required for the sustenance of good health and life.
According to this study, taking levothyroxine at the same time every day is essential, as taking it at different times can cause variations in thyroid hormone levels in the blood.
To avoid future instances of missing your medication
Here are some tips that could be of help:
- Use a pill box
- Keep your medication in a safe, visible, and easily accessible location.
- Set up automatic refills of your prescription.
- See your primary care doctor or endocrinologist regularly, as often as you should. Regular checkups will help your doctor assess the efficacy of the medications and recommend adjustments to the dosage if necessary. This emphasizes the importance of being candid with your doctor if you miss doses of your medication.
- Maintain a regular schedule that works best for you. The ThyForLife app can help with that, allowing you to set automated reminders for your medication intake.
- Skipping your medication is not advisable. You should strive to be consistent in adhering to your regimen.
- Skipping or going off your medication will most likely exacerbate the symptoms of your thyroid conditions. These symptoms may range from mild to life-threatening, depending on the extent to which you have deprived yourself of your medication.
- Take your medications according to the prescriptions to avoid possible complications. It isn’t enough to avoid missing a dose if you are taking your medication wrongly.
- If you miss a dose of your thyroid medication and remember early enough, take them as soon as possible. Do not take a double dose to make up for a previously missed dose.
- Make it a point to adopt measures that will help you always to take your medication on time.
- You should always consult your doctor if you have concerns regarding your medication or are considering going off your medication.