The thyroid is the butterfly-shaped gland at the base of your neck. As part of the endocrine system, it produces hormones that regulate your body's energy use, along with many other essential functions.
When your thyroid hormone production drops, your body processes slow down and change, affecting virtually every system in your body. If you suffer from hypothyroidism, you'll likely be on thyroid hormone replacement medication for the rest of your life.
With a condition like hypothyroidism that depends on proper monitoring and care by a thyroid doctor, it is paramount that you know how to advocate for yourself as a patient!
No one knows your body better than you. Your lab results may check out as "normal," but you are the one who experiences the daily symptoms. If you still feel hypothyroid, you should have a conversation with your doctor.
Some 20 million Americans have thyroid disease, and hypothyroid patients present with a diverse range of symptoms and can have varied responses to medications. Further still, patients can still feel hypothyroid even when their labs show they are within the normal range.
We know that no matter how long they've been getting treatment, only 35% of patients claim they've gotten better. Ahead, how to stand up for yourself as a thyroid patient.
How to advocate for yourself as a thyroid patient
To be an advocate for yourself as a patient, you need to understand your condition. You can research hypothyroidism in textbooks, reputable websites, the Paloma Health blog, and by having conversations with your thyroid doctor. Additionally, you can find support and connect with others that share your condition in support groups and online forums.
After you have read and researched your diagnosis, then you should do the same for treatment options. We are all unique with individual sensitivities. Our bodies will not all react the same way to a specific medication or dosage. Finding the right treatment and right dosage is a step-by-step process that takes time, requires monitoring, and ultimately depends on trust and communication with your provider.
It's important to discuss all of your options with your doctor, including the side-effects, costs, and efficacy of all possible treatment options. Thyroid hormone replacement drugs are powerful. It's critical to be under careful medical supervision when on these drugs, especially when starting a new brand or increasing dosage levels.
Partner with your thyroid doctor
The goal should be to partner with your doctor—NOT to prove them wrong or doubt their knowledge and experience. Gaining knowledge of your condition allows you to be in conversation with them and to ask better questions.
Understand your lab results
You should retest your thyroid levels every six months or so, and be able to read and understand your lab results. While many labs only look at thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), we believe it's critical also to measure free triiodothyronine (fT3), free thyroxine (fT4), and TPO antibodies.
Consider factors beyond your thyroid
We believe it smart for you to find a thyroid doctor that makes you feel heard and understood. However, we don't advise that you stop seeing your primary care provider. Not all health concerns always link back to your thyroid. There may be something else going on, so a well-rounded care team will support you most effectively.
Your care team should work together to get you feeling your best. Each doctor should know and care what tests have been ordered, what diagnoses you've received, and what medications or supplements you take.
Ultimately, you want to establish a trusting relationship with your doctor. Suppose you feel you're not being heard or understood, despite adequate preparation to a strong self-advocate and diligent efforts to be in partnership with your doctor. In that case, it may be time to switch practitioners. The road to health and well-being can be long, and you want to have an informed and trusted thyroid doctor in your corner.