Armour Thyroid, used in the treatment of mild to severe hypothyroidism in both adults and children, is considered a more "natural" form of the thyroid hormone than other, popular, thyroid medications. Although Armour carries this designation, it is not without side effects, the most serious of which are cardiovascular and musculoskeletal.
Cardiovascular Side Effects
Mosby’s 2010 Nursing Drug Reference warns that serious adverse side effects of arrhythmias, and cardiac decompensation and collapse, are possible in patients taking Armour Thyroid. Cardiac decompensation occurs primarily in patients already diagnosed with congestive heart failure and manifests with symptoms of peripheral edema, cyanosis (blue tint around the lips) and shortness of breath. Arrhythmias are irregular patterns in heart rhythm, which may include tachycardia (rapid heart beat). A patient experiencing any of the above symptoms should seek immediate medical attention and the primary health care provider should be notified.
Central Nervous System Side Effects
The central nervous system side effects that are the most common in Armour Thyroid therapy are relatively mild in nature and may respond to over-the-counter remedies or alternative healing methods. Nervousness, insomnia, tremors and headache are the most prevalent side effects. Should any of these symptoms become severe or increase in occurrence over time, the patient should discuss a possible medication change or alternative symptom management practices with his health care provider.
Gastrointestinal Side Effects
Armour Thyroid reportedly may cause diarrhea and vomiting which are manageable with over-the-counter remedies, if mild in nature. Any diarrhea and vomiting lasting longer than 24 hours should be reported to a physician, as serious imbalances in electrolytes may occur.
Genitourinary Side Effects
Women on Armour Thyroid have reported menstrual irregularities with their monthly cycles. If bleeding becomes unusually heavy or two consecutive cycles are missed, patients should contact their women’s health practitioners to discuss long-term risks and symptom management.
Metabolic Side Effects
Many patients report weight loss on Armour Thyroid. If weight loss is sudden and severe, a medication dosage adjustment may be warranted. Rapid weight loss may cause detrimental affects on other body systems.
Musculoskeletal Side Effects
Armour Thyroid’s boost to the metabolism may also cause bone loss. An increased risk of osteoporosis is a very serious concern in patients taking thyroid replacement products. Children and elderly women are especially at risk. Patients should be monitored closely for compromised bone strength through basal bone density measurements.
Integumentary Side Effects
Patients have complained of diaphoresis (sweating or clammy skin) and skin reactions or rash with Armour Thyroid therapy. Many have also complained of increased heat intolerance mimicking hot flashes.
- "PDR Nurse's Drug Handbook 2010;" Thomson Reuters and Alexander Ivy; 2009
- "Mosby's 2010 Nursing Drug Reference;" Linda Skidmore-Roth; 2009