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People living with hypothyroidism need to build a trusting, lasting relationship with a thyroid doctor to manage their thyroid care. The thyroid is the butterfly-shaped gland at the base of your neck. As part of the endocrine system, the thyroid gland 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 essentially all systems in your body. Undiagnosed thyroid disease puts patients at risk for other ailments, such as cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis, and infertility.
Still, finding a thyroid doctor can sometimes feel just as hard as managing a thyroid condition. And, you must have a solid working relationship with your thyroid doctor to keep you feeling and living well. So, if you are asking yourself how to find the top thyroid doctor near me, this guide is for you.
Many people are diagnosed with a thyroid condition by their primary care physician. Indeed, checking thyroid labs is sometimes standard in primary care practices. It is often a go-to lab test when people come in with common complaints like weight gain, fatigue, malaise, and low mood. Suppose your thyroid lab results indicate you have a thyroid condition like hypothyroidism. In that case, your primary care doctor will likely start you on treatment with a thyroid hormone replacement medication like levothyroxine.
In textbook cases, many people can stay under the care of the primary care physician for thyroid support. However, one of the most common causes of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto's thyroiditis, an autoimmune condition in which your immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid gland, causing it to fail eventually.
Autoimmune disorders are complex, multifaceted diseases, and they often accompany other autoimmune disorders like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriasis. Having an autoimmune component to thyroid disease can make it much harder to manage and treat.
Furthermore, many people with thyroid issues fall under the category of subclinical hypothyroidism, where thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels are slightly elevated above normal. Being in this category can be complicated because your thyroid lab results clearly show something is somewhat amiss. Still, you may or may not have symptoms. Therefore, knowing if and when to treat is challenging and is usually best left up to thyroid specialists to manage.
When you should see a thyroid doctor:
- You have been newly diagnosed with a thyroid condition.
- You have been on medication for some time but do not feel like it is working or right.
- You fall into the category of subclinical or borderline hypothyroidism.
- You are diagnosed with thyroid eye disease.
- Your thyroid gland is enlarged (called a goiter).
- You have a thyroid lump or nodule.
- You have another endocrine disorder that is likely causing your thyroid problem, such as a problem with the pituitary.
- You have become ill or have been diagnosed with another chronic health condition (like diabetes, cancer, Lyme disease, etc.)
- You are pregnant or trying to conceive.
There are several different types of health providers and specialties that may offer to manage thyroid conditions.
Firstly, you should know there are also different types of providers who may care for you, including medical doctors (M.D.), osteopathic doctors (D.O.), nurse practitioners (NP), and physician assistants (PA). Medical doctors and osteopathic doctors can get formal education and specialized training in endocrinology— the branch of physiology and medicine concerned with endocrine glands and hormones. In contrast, nurse practitioners and physician assistants usually receive on-the-job training in this specialty if they work in an endocrinology practice.
Secondly, different specialists in medicine may be able to provide thyroid care. However, endocrinologists are thyroid doctors and are the primary caretakers of this small but mighty organ.
Endocrinologists focus on treating disorders that affect the endocrine system (or hormone-producing glands), including the:
- Pituitary gland
- Adrenal glands
- Parathyroid glands
- Pineal gland
Because treating endocrine glands like the thyroid is an endocrinologist's specialty, they are the experts in treating these conditions. They stay up-to-date on the latest thyroid research, manage unique circumstances in thyroid care, and have the most experience caring for thyroid patients.
Endocrinologists can further specialize and get training to perform surgeries on people who have a goiter, nodules, or thyroid cancer. Some will even specialize only in taking care of thyroid patients, so they put all of their focus on patients with conditions like Graves' disease, Hashimoto's, and hypothyroidism. They are more likely to find uncommon thyroid issues that doctors who specialize in other areas may miss. And, endocrinologists do more thorough thyroid lab testing, such as checking Free triiodothyronine (fT3), Free thyroxine (fT4), and TPO antibodies. Non-thyroid specialists may only do standard tests that they are familiar with using and interpreting.
Primary Care Physicians
Primary care physicians are commonly referred to as PCP's, internal medicine doctors, or family medicine doctors. Providers who fall into this category of practice are incredible resources who can manage many different health conditions. Indeed, their role is to provide well-rounded, whole-body care. A PCP will see you at minimum once a year to check in on things like your weight, blood pressure, mental health, and essential lab work. They are also the providers you often turn to for things like flu care and urinary tract infections.
Many PCPs are comfortable managing chronic conditions as well, including thyroid conditions. In more typical cases, they may effectively manage thyroid conditions and other endocrine disorders. However, if something is unique or requires more specialized attention, they will likely refer patients to an endocrinologist.
Your PCP may be a great place to start your care. Still, it is always best to consult a doctor with more specialized training in thyroid care when you are first diagnosed with a thyroid condition.
Many women are diagnosed with thyroid conditions from their OB/GYN. This provider specializes in providing women's health care from adolescence to post-menopause. Of course, some providers will specialize within this discipline and only take care of pregnant women. In contrast, others may prefer to help patients in menopause.
Some women use their OB/GYN as their primary care provider. However, this is not always the best route as they cannot treat conditions like high blood pressure or respiratory infections. Furthermore, many women turn to their OB/GYN when they struggle with menstrual irregularities or infertility, often related to a thyroid condition. Therefore, OB/GYNs frequently check thyroid labs (especially in pregnancy) to verify this organ is not the culprit behind menstrual issues or pregnancy complications.
The doctor who orders the thyroid lab work may not always be the ideal provider to manage your thyroid on an ongoing basis. Once you have received thyroid lab work or a diagnosis, step back and think about if this provider is someone who you wish to manage your thyroid.
Thyroid diseases like hypothyroidism and/or Hashimoto's thyroiditis are lifelong, meaning that you will need to have care and treatment throughout your life. It is best to be sure that the doctor you are working with is someone who listens to your concerns, is skilled and compassionate, and works to help you meet your health goals.
Ask yourself these questions when evaluating your current thyroid doctor:
- Does my doctor listen to me and answer my questions thoroughly?
- Do I feel like they have my best interests at heart, and are they compassionate?
- Are they interested in treating and managing my thyroid disease in a personalized way?
- Do they listen to my ideas, consider the knowledge I bring to appointments, or are they quick to brush them off?
- Does my doctor respond to messages and refill requests promptly?
- Am I able to be seen in a timely fashion if I need help?
- Do they ask how I feel and treat me based on that? Or, do they only look at my lab tests and disregard how I feel?
- Does it seem like my doctor knows me, or at least reviewed my chart before walking into the exam room?
- Are all treatment options on the table, or is my doctor quick to jump to only one or two options?
- Do I feel respected?
- Is my doctor able to admit when they do not know something and follow up on it once they do more research?
- Does my doctor feel patronizing, or do I feel like they partner with me to help me live my best, healthiest life?
Most often, people with thyroid problems are referred to a thyroid specialist by their PCP. They typically choose someone in their network of specialists they have worked with in the past or know through a mutual health organization like a hospital. Some people also search online for thyroid specialists in their area or ask friends or relatives who they recommend.
If you search online, you may want to start by checking out professional organizations that have a "Find an endocrinologist near me" feature, including:
Fortunately, with advances in modern health technology, online thyroid care is now available at the touch of your fingertips. From the comfort of your environment, you can meet with a Paloma Health online thyroid doctor who specializes only in providing thyroid care. Because of our focused attention, our online thyroid doctors understand the unique nuances that often accompany thyroid conditions.
At Paloma Health, we build relationships with our patients. Our online thyroid doctors partner with you to not only manage your thyroid medication but care for your whole-body health. Our goal is to help you meet your health and lifestyle goals, and we know that your thyroid functioning optimally is critical to you feeling your best.
Our at-home thyroid test kit makes it easy to test and monitor your thyroid hormone levels without needing a lab order from your thyroid doctor. The test kit includes thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), free T3, free T4, and TPO antibodies, with the option to add on reverse T3 and vitamin D. This panel of biomarkers is much more comprehensive than many other doctors order.
Paloma Health online thyroid doctors evaluate these labs, always in conjunction with your symptoms, medical history, and lifestyle, to create a personalized treatment plan. They are open to all treatment options and believe the best medication is the one that works safely and effectively for you.
Unlike endocrinologists in offices, Paloma Health does not require a referral from a PCP or other doctor. However, your insurance may request one for full coverage of your visits and care. For more information, feel free to schedule a complimentary call with a care advisor to determine if Paloma Health is a good fit for you.
Working with an online thyroid doctor is still relatively new. Many people do not know the benefits of getting routine thyroid care through telemedicine.
Benefits of opting for online thyroid care:
- Getting into a physical office to see a specialist can take weeks to months, depending on how in-demand they are. It is even harder for new patients. Online specialists have more flexibility and can see new patients more quickly.
- Telemedicine is more affordable than most office visits, even when you pay out-of-pocket. However, insurance will often cover these visits as well. You'll want to check with your carrier and doctor before you have your initial consultation.
- Telemedicine is great for people without insurance because of its affordability and no hidden costs.
- Virtual health care gives people in rural or underserved areas more access to health care.
- Online health care decreases your risk for exposure to illnesses (especially in light of COVID).
- Some providers will offer appointments at unusual hours, such as later at night, so you do not need to miss out on work or other daytime obligations.
- Seeing an online thyroid doctor may decrease anxiety over going to the doctor (sometimes called white coat syndrome).
- It does not require you to find childcare or take too much time away from work— just enough time to talk with your doctor on your phone or computer.
What about insurance coverage?
Some people hesitate to use online doctors because they worry about insurance coverage. However, the COVID pandemic made insurance companies realize the benefits of telemedicine to help people in need, especially those with chronic health conditions. It is now easier than ever to work with an online thyroid doctor and request coverage or reimbursement for your care.
If you do decide to switch to a different thyroid doctor for your thyroid care, there are some things you will want to consider as you make the change.
Review ratings and referrals— but don't rely on them
Firstly, don't always rely on ratings and referrals to make your choice. Everyone has different personalities, and some personalities mesh well together, whereas others clash. To figure out if a doctor will work for you, you can request an initial consultation to see if this doctor or practice may be right for you.
Transfer your medical records
Secondly, make sure to gather your medical records that are (at the least) pertinent to your thyroid care. For example, if you just had bloodwork with your PCP and want to see a thyroid specialist, have your current provider's office send your lab results and any office notes to your new provider's office. By doing this, so you may not need to repeat labs.
Reflect on your appointment
Thirdly, once you have your first appointment with your new doctor, take time to reflect and think if this person is the best fit for you. If it doesn't feel right or you were not satisfied or comfortable with your visit, keep looking for someone who meets all or most of your criteria.
We firmly believe it is in your best interest to find an online thyroid doctor who listens to you, cares for you, and is passionate about working with people who have a thyroid condition. However, we don't advise you to stop seeing your primary care doctor or other specialists on your care team, such as an OB/GYN or rheumatologist. Each doctor serves a purpose, and specialists should not replace your PCP.
Your thyroid doctor is not the person to contact if you have a sore throat, broken arm, or gastric reflux. Your PCP is the best person to reach out with these concerns. It is vital to relay the information shared between different providers on your care team so that they can provide the best care possible for your unique health profile.
A note from Paloma Health
Paloma Health makes it easy to partner with a top thyroid doctor near you. You don't even need to leave your home office or living room. Infact,you can access care anywhere you have a WIFI signal.
It is equally easy to have your lab tests checked from the comfort of your home. It is far more pleasant than going to a lab for a blood draw if we can say so ourselves. Our at-home thyroid test kits are comprehensive and only require a finger stick to get the information we need to give you the care you deserve.
We also believe in comprehensive, whole-body care when treating thyroid conditions, which is why we have thyroid nutritionists on our team. Healing from within with proper diet and nutrition is the cornerstone to treating a chronic thyroid condition like hypothyroidism or Hashimoto's disease. You can schedule a nutrition consultation with any of our thyroid nutritionists to create a personalized thyroid-friendly diet that fits your lifestyle.