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10 Thyroid Mistakes Your Doctor May Be Making

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Updated November 03, 2005

10 Thyroid Mistakes Your Doctor May Be Making
by Mary J. Shomon

Is your doctor doing everything possible to help you get your thyroid condition diagnosed and properly treated? You may think so, but many patients struggle with thyroid disease, continuing to experience chronic and debilitating symptoms, yet are being told that there's nothing else the doctor can do to help.

The reality? Your doctor may be making some far too common mistakes in your diagnosis and treatment -- mistakes that could be preventing you from feeling and living your best. Take a look at these ten things, and make sure you don't recognize something your doctor is doing!

10. Focusing on the test numbers instead of you and how you feel.

Many practitioners rely on the test numbers, to the exclusion of your symptoms and how you actually feel. More innovative practitioners believe that test results are only part of the equation, and your symptoms -- including fatigue, weight gain, cholesterol levels, hair loss, body temperature, and depression, among others -- are also a good way to gauge whether you are getting enough -- or too much -- thyroid medicine.

One article to help: Can Basal Body Temperatures Diagnose Thyroid Disease?

9. Relying on the TSH test, instead of a full thyroid panel, including antibody tests.

A TSH test is just one part of the overall picture. You can have a TSH that falls in the "normal range," or is in the higher or lower end of normal, but you can actually have a thyroid problem or autoimmune thyroid disease (like Hashimoto's or Graves' disease). A good practitioner doesn't rule out a thyroid condition solely on the basis of a TSH, but instead, runs additional tests, such as Free T4, Free T3. Thyroid antibodies can diagnose autoimmune conditions long before other blood values become abnormal. AND, treatment for people with antibodies can actually help forestall full-scale development of thyroid disease in some people!

Read: Treatment for Thyroid Antibodies And Normal TSH?

8. Prescribing only one brand of thyroid medicine.

The best thyroid drug is the thyroid drug that safely and effectively works best for you. Don't let a practitioner tell you that she or he "only prescribes" this drug or that drug. That's a sign that you have a practitioner who doesn't really understand the complex nature of thyroid disease. If one brand of levothyroxine (i.e., Synthroid, Levoxyl, Unithroid) doesn't work, your doctor should be willing to try another. And if levothyroxine doesn't work, then your doctor should be willing to try T3 (i.e., Cytomel) or natural thyroid.

For more info, read: What is the "Best" Thyroid Drug?

7. Not looking at adrenal and other hormonal issues as part of the picture.

Even the best thyroid treatment may not work -- or may not work as well as it could -- if underlying adrenal and hormonal problems are not dealt with effectively. If your doctor is not looking at your adrenal and hormonal situation, then an important part of your health is being overlooked.

To learn more, read:

6. Not providing proper information about how to take your thyroid medicine.

Do you know about when and how to take calcium -- and calcium fortified juice -- with your thyroid medicine? What about iron, or vitamins with iron? What about a high-fiber diet? If you don't know about these things, your doctor isn't telling you key information that can help ensure that you're getting the most from your thyroid medicines.

Get the scoop: 5. Failing to recognize symptoms that are related to the thyroid condition.

It is so common for doctors to fail to realize how connected thyroid problems are to so many symptoms. Just a few that are frequently overlooked...
  • Difficulty losing weight loss
  • Hair loss
  • Hormonal and fertility problems

    4. Rushing to RAI before discussing options for hyperthyroidism/Graves' disease.

    Only in the U.S. is radioactive iodine (RAI) considered a first-line treatment for hyperthyroidism and Graves' disease. While as many as 25% of patients have a chance of remission, and a variety of options exist -- including alternative medicine -- to choose from, few patients will hear about them from their physicians. The solution? Learn about your options. Consider reading Elaine Moore's book Graves' Disease: A Practical Guide, or Mary Shomon's Living Well With Graves Disease' and Hyperthyroidism (Mary Shomon is About.com's Thyroid Guide.).

    For more information on these books:

    Graves' Disease: A Practical Guide
    Living Well With Graves Disease' and Hyperthyroidism

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