Surprisingly, despite the prevalence of thyroid disease, about half of sufferers remain undiagnosed due to improper testing and because initial signs and symptoms are vague, ambiguous, and often seen in various disorders.
It’s important to find a doctor who is actually able to deal with harder to diagnose thyroid imbalances. Arming yourself with knowledge can help you find a thyroid doctor that can address your needs properly.
Is An Endocrinologist Your Best Choice?
If you experience a “harder to diagnose” thyroid imbalance, autoimmune thyroid disease like Hashimoto’s, subclinical / borderline thyroid disease, a “normal” TSH but have thyroid symptoms, or you’re being treated for hypothyroidism but you still don’t feel well, most endocrinologists are probably not the best fit for you. Below are a few of the reasons why.
The shortage of endocrinologists in America (only about 4,000 endocrinologists who are serving as many as 100 million Americans) unfortunately leads to time-consuming detective work for these doctors and trial-and-error treatment protocols. Due to their low numbers, your access to an endocrinologist may be limited. Therefore, you’ll often have to wait months to get an appointment with an endocrinologist, and even then, your appointment is likely to last only a few minutes. The reality is that patients, who do not have what the doctors consider to be a “life-threatening” thyroid condition, are not ranked high on the priority list.
The last consideration would be the fact that the majority of endocrinologists are not comfortable supplementing levothyroxine medications with prescription T3 drugs, despite some studies that suggest a benefit for some patients. And most endocrinologists do not prescribe natural desiccated thyroid medication either.
There are of course some endocrinologists who believe in giving thyroid patients in-depth and comprehensive attention and care. Those patients who are doing well under the care of these specialists will want to continue doing what works with their practitioners. However, if you are seeing an endocrinologist, and are frustrated at what you feel are limitations in the diagnostic and treatment approach, you may need help considering another type of doctor.
What Kind Of Thyroid Specialist Should You Be Seeing?
The medical community and patients are starting to recognize that in practice, hypothyroidism may actually require a hormone specialist.
The “specialists” for hormone balance and chronic hypothyroidism tend to be found in a variety of disciplines and specialties, and include: integrative physicians; functional medicine doctors; holistic MDs; osteopaths; anti-aging practitioners; gynecologists; menopause and hormone experts; internists; and primary care physicians who have taken an interest in thyroid and hormone balance in their patients.
Tips On Finding The Doctor Right For You
The relationship with a doctor is an intensely personal one, and it’s not easy to find the right match – particularly when we’re limited by geography, HMOs and insurance.
As a general rule, below are three main aspects to consider when you choose your thyroid doctors:
- They should conduct a comprehensive screening to determine the status of your thyroid including Free T4, Free T3, reverse T3, sex hormone binding globulin (SHGB), leptin, a measurement of tissue thyroid levels, and basal metabolic rate.
- They should treat the patient not the lab results. Find a doctor who investigates not only your blood work, but also your hypothyroidism symptoms, medical history, family history and physical signs. Find one that will treat you with the goal of eliminating your symptoms and not strictly on TSH levels.
- They are willing to explore the different thyroid hormone replacement drug options to find what works best for you.
To learn more about useful areas to look for, when choosing your doctor to address thyroid symptoms, you can watch the video of Dr. Kent Holtorf below: