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Avoiding Pitfalls in Thyroid Diagnosis and Treatment

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Updated November 24, 2008

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Your Doctor Isn't Using the Recommended TSH Reference Range
Avoiding Pitfalls in Thyroid Diagnosis and Treatment
"Thyroid disease is easy to diagnose, easy to treat..." That's the mantra that many physicians and practitioners repeat. Unfortunately, thyroid disease is not always as easy to diagnose and treat as the experts believe. And that means that patients - and doctors - are more likely to get sidetracked. Here's a guide on how to avoid some of the common pitfalls that can get in the way of proper thyroid diagnosis and successful treatment.

The thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) test is the key test used by many physicians to diagnose and manage thyroid problems.

At most laboratories in the U.S., the "normal" reference range for the TSH test runs from approximately 0.5 to 5.0. But more than six years ago, endocrinologists and laboratory experts recommended that the range be narrowed to .3 to 3.0. This remains a raging controversy, with some experts using the new range, and some practitioners and many labs still continuing to use the older range. Patients who fall into the limbo -- and it's estimated that millions of Americans have a TSH level between 3.0 and 5.0 -- may or may not be diagnosed as hypothyroid, depending on the philosophy of the doctor doing the diagnosis.

This obviously can be a pitfall to proper diagnosis. And, if you're being treated by a doctor who follows the old range, you may only receive enough treatment to get your TSH into the 3.0 to 5.0 level -- the limbo between the old and new range.

What should you do? Start by reading The TSH Reference Range Wars: What's "Normal?", Who is Wrong, Who is Right... And What Does It All Mean For You and Your Health?

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