Thyroid Problems

Bette Dowdell

Back in the olden days–say 1960–doctors diagnosed thyroid problems by asking about symptoms, then working to alleviate them. Simple system, that. And it worked for the 20% of the population with flaky thyroid glands.

Ah, but then blood tests, purportedly able to diagnose thyroid problems, came on the scene. Symptoms, being anecdotal and subjective, no longer mattered. Especially since, as most doctors insist, patients exaggerate. Now, with blood tests, they could rely on science alone.

The first problem with that scenario comes in the fact that the “normal” limits for these newfangled blood tests were set to achieve a problem rate of 5% of the population, which the medicos deemed more appropriate than the historical 20%. The other 15% would simply be sent home with the assurance that their thyroid gland worked well, symptoms notwithstanding and not important.

The second problem with blood tests arises from the fact they test the wrong thing: Thyroid levels in the blood, not in the cells where thyroid hormone actually does its work. To overcome that shortcoming, they created additional blood tests. Sad to say, the new tests don’t get the job done, either.

The third problem–and please keep this under your hat as it’s top secret–beats even the first two: The tests aren’t reliable. For just one example, doctors see the Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) test as the gold standard, but it is, at best, the pyrite standard.

A few years back, “normal” ranges for the TSH were changed dramatically when research showed that severely hypothyroid people got passing grades and, thus, no help. But most labs and most doctors still stick with the old, wildly misleading standard of “normal.”

And it may not matter. As it turns out, the TSH blood test may mean nothing. Which fact seems only to have made doctors all the more determined to base a diagnosis on it. If they test at all.

Many doctors, rigidly adhering to medical school admonitions to ignore symptoms, won’t even test. Stories abound of patients going to doctor after doctor, year after year, before finding one who would even consider testing for thyroid problems. Usually doctors scribble out a quick prescription for Prozac (without a test, of course) and call it a day.

As you can see, if you have a problem with your thyroid, you have a Real Problem. Don’t bother asking a pharmacist for help; they are forbidden to speak, even if they want to. Get on the internet. Ask friends. You can find a doctor who will help if you search.

Unless of course you’re content to live life with no hair, no brain and no energy.

Information is power.

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