What your doctor doesn't know CAN hurt you

Friday, November 14, 2008

Why I hate doctors: Part 2

Pretty much the only time you hear about the thyroid gland is when someone tells you how they just can’t lose weight because they suffer from a “thyroid problem.”

As a result, when most people think of the thyroid gland, if they think of it at all, they think, “eh, thyroid gland…big deal.” But it is kind of a big deal. Every cell in the body depends on thyroid hormones for the regulation of metabolism and if it’s out of whack, trust me, you will be a total mess.

Prior to the 1970’s, all thyroid problems were diagnosed based on symptoms and treatment was given based on the abatement of those symptoms. Today, those symptoms are oftentimes quickly diagnosed as “depression” and treated with anti-depressants. Not only does this not help to alleviate the patient’s symptoms, it’s also dangerous to the patient’s health.

Undiagnosed and untreated hypothryoidism can lead to infertility, high cholesterol, and heart problems – among other things. There are many people of the opinion that conditions such as Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (coincidentally, new diseases that popped up after the ‘70’s) are nothing more than undiagnosed hypothyroidism.

I don’t want to get overly technical here, because I’m no expert, but what it comes down to is this: Thyroid problems, either hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) or hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid) are diagnosed based on the amount of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) put out by the pituitary gland. If you have too much TSH floating around in your system, you are hypothyroid; too little and you are hyperthyroid.

In the early ‘70’s the test for diagnosing thyroid irregularities was created based on the TSH levels of 200 test participants. A range of “normal” was then created and has become the standard. Unfortunately, the volunteers who participated in this study may or may not have been 100% free of thyroid problems. So what do you suppose this does to the normal range? It skews it so far out of line that a patient with test results in the “normal” range may actually be hypothyroid.

A “normal” range of .5 to 5.0 was created and became the ONLY thing doctors have looked at in the past 30 years.

The truth is, if your TSH level is 4, you are probably hypothyroid. A new range of .3 to 3.0 has been recommended, but most doctors haven’t paid attention. Thyroid patients have found that they feel best usually around 1.5 or 2. But nobody is going to do anything to get your level down to 1.5 or 2 because 4 is “normal.”

If your TSH level is in the “normal” range, doctors generally couldn’t care less what your symptoms are. You are FINE. Quit whining. And pay the receptionist on your way out.

When I think back to the very first doctor I saw about this problem (my ob/gyn because this started with the birth of my second child) he said to me, “Oh, that all definitely sounds like your thyroid,” and I remember him being puzzled because the blood work all came back normal. He actually said, “I would have SWORN it was your thyroid, but I guess I was wrong.” See? He was right on the money but second guessed himself because of that flawed “normal” range. If he would have gone with his instincts and treated me based on my symptoms, I could have avoided all this misery. Instead, he was the first doctor to give me an anti-depressant.

If you have any of the symptoms of thyroid disease, even though your test results have been normal, I suggest you do some reading at Stop the Thyroid Madness. It was an eye-opener for me. The knowledge I’ve acquired there hasn’t done anything to “fix” me, because every endocrinologist I have ever met has been a total asshole, but at least I know what I’m dealing with.

If I could fix this thing myself, I would. Unfortunately, I can't, so I'm at the mercy of doctors who won't take one extra minute trying to figure out what is wrong with me and how to make it all better. Where is Dr. House when I need him?

To be continued…don’t worry, only one more…


GroundedFitness said...

I have hyPERthyroidism, which causes people to think "lucky you" because they just assume i have a fast metabolism. i do- but its because i work out, not because of my disease (disease sounds weird, but thats what it is.) Hyperthyroidism causes my body to run at an elevated rate, so i get heart palapations and "fight or flight" feelings out of no where (before i was diagnosed, i thought i was having panic attacks) my hands shake, i get red patches on my skin and because my body runs so fast, sometimes it rebels and I crash. HARD. i refused medicine and control it with diet and exercise, but im not the lucky girl with the fast metabolism- it really does effect my everyday life in megative ways.

Kelly Turner

Mrs. Jelly Belly said...

Oh, Kelly, there is NOTHING lucky about hyperthyroidism. Since I tend to swing back and forth between the two, I am familiar with the symptoms you describe. They are AWFUL. The heart palpitations are just scary.

I had a doctor tell me I was "lucky" to be able to lose the weight I lost. There was no luck involved. It was a lot of hard work.

I am interested in how you are controlling this with diet and exercise. Although, I will admit, I felt much better when I was more focused on those things. Perhaps that is my answer now.

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