Thyroid disorders are frequently misdiagnosed, misunderstood and poorly managed.  Patients will often seek help in our office for symptoms associated with hypothyroidism such as fatigue,weight loss, heavy menstrual bleeding, depression and fibrocystic breast disease only to find out they have a thyroid problem.  Other signs and symptoms of thyroid problems can include elevated cholesterol, constipation, always feeling cold, extremely dry skin and the loss of the lateral one third of the eyebrow.

Patients often are led to believe that they either do or do not have a thyroid disorder because their doctor has run a TSH.  TSH is not a thyroid hormone but rather it is a pituitary hormone and using it as an indicator of thyroid function assumes that other endocrine organs such as the pituitary and hypothalamus are functioning normally. In order to properly diagnose thyroid disease, blood tests that include the active forms of the thyroid hormone called Free T 4 and Free T3 must be assessed along with a hormone called Reverse T3.  Autoantibodies must also be tested to determine whether the disease has an autoimmune component.  Often it is necessary to determine whether an iodine deficien cy is present. Iodine deficiency is very common and can easily be tested through urinalysis. In addition to thyroid disorders, iodine deficiency can be a contributing factor in fibrocystic breast disease.

Although thyroid disorders are very manageable and oftentimes fixable, the proper evaluation and diagnosis are essential before treatment can be effective.  Disease of the thyroid is often secondary to other problems and thyroid problems should be assessed and treated with consideration of a persons overall health.  If you have been told that you have symptoms of thyroid disease and that you don’t have a thyroid problem because of a simple TSH test, it may be time for a more through evaluation.

Have you been tired, cold, depressed, or gaining weight?

Information courtesy of Great Smokies Diagnostic Laboratory

Ask yourself the following questions. If you answer yes to one of them, you could have an undiagnosed thyroid problem.

  1. Are you cold all the time or have cold hands and feet?
  2. Are you hot all the time or uncomfortable in warm weather?
  3. Are you tired, especially in the morning?
  4. Are you keyed up and feeling like you are going to jump out of your skin?
  5. Do you have recent unexplained change in weight?
  6. Are you depressed or anxious?
  7. Do you have water retention or bug eyes?
  8. Do you have hair loss?
  9. Do you have difficulty swallowing or a lump in your neck?

You could have a thyroid disorder but the standard thyroid tests may not tell you the whole story.

Understanding your body’s accelerator

Similar to the way you regulate the speed of your car with a gas pedal, your thyroid regulates your metabolic rate by secreting thyroid hormone.  With the proper setting, thyroid hormones maintain healthy growth and repair, use of energy, and heat production throughout your body.  However, flaws in thyroid metabolism can slow down your body (hypothyroidism) or speed it up (hyperthyroidism), producing unpleasant and health-threatening effects.

Although many people still associate thyroid dysfunction with the classic symptoms – goiters, obesity, and bug eyes – there are many different symptoms of thyroid problems.  When symptoms aren’t severe or don’t seem directly related to thyroid hormones, patients and their healthcare providers may dismiss them or blame them on some other condition.

Fortunately, there is an impressive array of tests now available for evaluating thyroid function much more precisely and thoroughly than was possible just five or ten years ago.

Gateway Natural Medicine and Diagnostic Center now has included six of the most sensitive of these tests in a new Comprehensive Thyroid Assessment to help us assess your thyroid.  The test report, with its extensive commentary about the test markers and possible treatments, will help us decide what course to take for improving your thyroid health.

What is Hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism is the clinical syndrome caused by too little thyroid hormone.  Symptoms include many complaints that can be confused with other conditions, such as fatigue and lethargy, coldness or cold hands/feet, depression, dry skin, and muscle cramps. Slow breathing, dry skin, and puffy face, hands, and feet, diffuse hair loss, and high cholesterol are common physical signs of hypothyroidism.

Hypothyroidism is common in older persons and in women, increasing cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis risk significantly.  It causes range from excess stress, mineral deficiencies, toxic exposure, prolonged illness, and autoimmune disorders.  There are several medications know to affect thyroid hormone production.

What is Hyperthyroidism?

With overproduction of thyroid hormone, the body speeds up dramatically. Heart rate, normally around 70 beats per minute, can rise to 100 per minute or more.  With metabolism in overdrive, patients may experience high blood pressure, warm, moist skin, restlessness, weight loss, and feeling very hot. A classic sign can be “bug eyes,” with the white of the eye visible around the entire iris.  Hyperthyroidism places more demand on the heart and can increase the risk of disease.

It can be difficult to recognize signs of hyperthyroidism in older persons because the body’s hypermetabolism may intensify the effects of other health conditions.  For an already weakened heart, for example, excess thyroid hormone may trigger irregular heartbeat or heart failure. Increased bone turnover can hasten the appearance of overt osteoporosis, a major health risk for aging women.

Thyroid symptoms can vary over time

Subtle forms of thyroid dysfunction may never progress to an overt condition and symptoms can vary in severity over time.  Even so, untreated thyroid dysfunction can increase disease risk.

It is important for thyroid dysfunction to be monitored through periodic testing.  It is also important for us to evaluate your risk for heart disease and osteoporosis.  Too little thyroid hormone can increase LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol and decrease levels of HDL (the protective) cholesterol.  Too much can affect heart muscle.  Thyroid dysfunction of any type speeds up bone loss.

Choosing a Comprehensive Thyroid Assessment

Our new thyroid assessment can give our doctors the information needed to identify even subtle irregularities in your thyroid metabolism.  For the millions of Americans estimated to suffer from undiagnosed thyroid disorder, this test can be very good news.  Additional thyroid markets may uncover at last the true cause of symptoms that may otherwise be dismissed as the results of normal age-related changes or emotional unrest.