Mario A. Martinez, M.D.

If I told you that I could give you a pill that would make you fat, stupid, and constipated, would you take it? Of course not! Well that is what happens to you if you do not take your thyroid medication. People sometimes will not take their thyroid medication because nobody has bothered to explain to them what the thyroid does. The thyroid gland is located on the front portion of the neck, where the neck connects to the chest. The thyroid regulates the metabolism of the body.

The thyroid is similar to the idle on a car. If it is set too high, the car uses a lot of fuel. The car will idle at 35 mph. The engine and transmission will fail prematurely as well. Patients with hyperthyroidism have their metabolism set to high. They are very hot, and they do not tolerate hot rooms or environments. They have very sweaty, moist skin. They lose weight without dieting, and they have numerous bowel movements daily. Hyperthyroid patients often look nervous, and they look like their eyes are bulging out of their head.

If the idle on a car is set too low, it will hesitate when you step on the accelerator. The engine will sputter when the car is turned off as well. Hypothyroid patients have their metabolism set too low. This causes them to think and talk slowly. In fact, they often sound like they have a very thick tongue. They feel cold all the time. These patients gain weight very easily, and they are constipated. Hypothyroid patients feel very tired and look sleepy. They often develop swelling around the eyes as well, which is called periorbital edema.

The take home message is this: Take your thyroid medication. Weight gain, sluggish mentation, and constipation are 3 things that no one wants.