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Thyroid Labs

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Many doctors will base a hypothyroid diagnosis on one lab, the TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone). Unfortunately, patients have found that the TSH is unreliable at diagnosing and with helping to get the correct dose of medication. The so-called normal range can be 0.5-5 or more recently some follow 0.3-3. Hypothyroid symptoms appear long before the TSH goes out of these ranges, and many patients FEEL best when their TSH is suppressed (close to 0).

Here's a list of labs I found helpful in diagnosing my thyroid problem:

Free T3
Free T4
anti-TPO (antibody test)
TgAb (antibody test)
Reverse T3
Vitamin D

The free T3 & free T4 tests measure the amount of unbound T3 & T4 in your system. The antibody tests tell if you have Hashimoto's, autoimmune thyroid disease. Reverse T3 when compared to free T3 in a ratio can tell if you have a reverse T3 problem. The reverse T3 will make it difficult for a patient to increase their dessicated thyroid medication to the level they need to eliminate hypothyroid symptoms. Low ferritin (storage iron) and low Vitamin D levels can also cause problems with tolerating dessicated thyroid.

These are the labs I have found helpful in treating my hypothyroidism. I have Hashimoto's. My ferritin level used to be extremely low as well as my vitamin D level.

Here's a link for more info on labwork:

I hope my journey in treating my hypothyroidism can help others identify and treat their thyroid problems.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

SUZIAND 2/17/2010 12:41PM

    I think it's awesome that you are so informed!!! Way to go!


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YESITSDEB 2/17/2010 11:40AM

    Interesting..........thank you. Something to talk to my Dr. about. Just had my TSH tested a few weeks ago because I felt that my levels were not under control. Hair is falling out and I can't loose any wait regardless of what I'm eating and exercise I'm getting. He said my levels were in range and no need to change my level from the current 175 micrograms. I think a 2nd opinion may be in order

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MUSICMOMOF2 2/17/2010 11:36AM

    This is great information to share with others. Thanks!

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MAMA_CD 2/17/2010 11:33AM

    Very interesting, I learned something today. Thats good! emoticon

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

I'll take a break today from my thyroid blogs. Tomorrow's Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. It's a wonderful time to take our healthy lifestyles to another level. Everything we sacrifice we can offer up to our Lord as penance for our sins and to unite our suffering with his ultimate sacrifice for us. Feeling hungry, giving up certain foods, all these sacrifices can not only benefit our bodies, but our souls as well when we offer them up.

I wish everyone a very Blessed Lent.


Hypothyroid Symptoms

Monday, February 15, 2010

Thyroid patients such as myself have discovered in hindsite that our symptoms lingered on for years before ever being diagnosed. I probably needed to be on dessicated thyroid in my mid twenties. That's when I started gaining weight despite exercising and eating well. Granted, I'm no athlete, nor was I perfect at eating well and dieting. I still did not deserve the weight I was gaining. This was also when I started having trouble with mild depression, especially in the winter.

Here's a list of common hypothyroid symptoms:
Low stamina/energy
Long recovery after activity
Chronic low grade depression
Feeling cold/cold hands and feet
High Cholesterol
Thinning eye brows
Hair loss
Dry cracking skin
Foggy thinking
Inability to lose weight
Always gaining weight
Illegible handwriting
Broken/peeling fingernails
Joint pain
Blood pressure problems
Tightness in throat/sore throat
Low body temperature

This is by no means a complete list of complaints. You can see a pattern here, though. Every cell in your body needs thyroid hormone to function. If your thyroid isn't functioning well, nothing else will. It affects every system in your body. Patients just feel like they are not themselves anymore. Your brain is foggy, you over react to the smallest of stresses, constantly mildly depressed, and the list goes on. Loss of eyebrows and constipation are very common signs of a thyroid problem.

Doctors will frequently only order a TSH lab to diagnose hypothyroidism. Patients have discovered, though, that this lab only adequately diagnoses a pituitary problem. It's important to find a doctor who looks at your symptoms and not just a TSH result. If that's all he/she is looking at, run from his/her office. As a patient, you need a doctor who will not only listen to you, but work with you through treatment. Many patients have found general or family practitioners much easier to work with than endocrinologists. Most endocrinologists have a "god" complex and will try to dictate to you that they know what's best. They will diagnose based off of TSH, put you on levothyroxine (T4) only, and when your symptoms don't go away, they will prescribe more meds for these symptoms. Patients have ended up on a whole slew of meds they didn't need because the root of the problem was never addressed appropriately, hypothyroidism. You can see from the list of symptoms how a patient can end up on: one or more anti-depressants, one or more cholesterol lowering drugs, one or high blood pressure meds, meds for constipation, etc...

Take a look at this list of symptoms. There are more complete lists on the "Stop the Thyroid Madness" website and also at the thyroid site run by Mary Shomon. These are excellent sites to visit for information. I plan to post tomorrow about what labs are the correct labs to insist on for better diagnosis. With proper labwork and tracking symptoms, hypothyroid patients will get diagnosed sooner and begin treatment sooner.


My Thyroid Battle

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Having six kids, I've gained and lost weight numerous times. Yes, I've lost 30 pounds four times in my married life. When my twins (the youngest of the six) were three, I decided again to commit myself to losing weight and getting in shape. At that time I had been on levothyroxine for over 10 years to treat my hypothyroidism. I worked out and ate well for eight weeks. This was real commitment because it was over Christmas that I was doing this, December 2008. In January I was horrified to find out that I had gained 20 pounds.

This was my wake up call. I was seeing a new doctor who only prescribes dessicated thyroid for his patients. He referred me to the "Stop the Thyroid Madness" (STTM) book and website. I thought I already understood thyroid problems. I'm a pharmacist and in college I learned to diagnose hypothyroidism you use one test, TSH; to treat it you use one drug, levothyroxine. I had read some articles already about patients switching to dessicated thyroid (DT) and doing much better. Reading STTM changed my outlook on hypothyroidism. It's a patient lead movement to change thyroid diagnosis and treatment. Many patients are fed up with inadequate diagnosis and treatment of thyroid disorders. I'm one of these patients.

Reading what other patients have gone through made me realize in hindsite that my symptoms were never relieved by levothyroxine treatment. My TSH lab would correct to the so-called normal range, but symptoms kept worsening. Lingering depression, seasonal affective disorder, sleep problems, weight gain, brain fog, and the list goes on. I could have been on numerous medications to try to "treat" these symptoms, but being a pharmacist I'm familiar with side effects and chose just to put up with these symptoms. I decided to follow the advice of other patients who were sick and tired of feeling sick and tired all the time.

2009 was both a good and frustrating year. I was able to correct some nutritional deficiencies. I had both low ferritin and low vitamin D levels. Both of these can adversely affect thyroid treatment. Ferritin is storage iron. The optimal range is 70-90. Mine was 7. I was well on my way to being anemic. Everyone with thyroid problems needs to get their ferritin checked. With low ferritin, your body doesn't use the thyroid medication properly and can even make you feel hyperthyroid (too much) when you are actually still hypothyroid (too low). The treatment is easy: Take iron supplements. It takes time, however, to raise your ferritin level. In August, mine was up to 45. I'm still waiting for my newest results.

Vitamin D deficiency is very common in the US, especially in the winter. This can explain some of the depression and seasonal depression I was suffering. I've been taking supplements for almost a year now and recommend people research taking vitamin D. This is the first winter in 12 years I haven't gotten completely depressed. Amazingly, it's the worst winter I've experienced here in Iowa.

Correcting these two deficiencies are the first step in treating hypothyroidism. There are other deficiencies mentioned by STTM that need to be addressed as well. In future blogs I hope to mention:

Important labs
Adrenal fatigue
Reverse T3

I want to share my journey. We thyroid patients need to stick together if we are going to help each other get well.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

MOM-OF-SIX 2/14/2010 8:38PM

If you have symptoms, you are probably hypothyroid. They probably only measured TSH which doesn't correlate well with symptoms. Also, different docs have different "normal" values. In Great Britain they don't even have to treat until TSH is above 10. I felt almost dead last year with a TSH of 9. Most people who follow the Stop the Thyroid Madness pages want their TSH close to 0. If you are on Facebook, I highly recommend looking up both the STTM page and discussion board. STTM also has a website with a lot of information on it. There is a sparkteam, Thyroid patients for change, that lists several websites, doctors, and resources. I've read Dr Brownstein's books on thyroid and Iodine. I also have an adrenal fatigue book. I'll keep posting things I've learned, because I really think I'm making progress.

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BUTTERRUM163 2/14/2010 8:55AM

    Early 2009 a Dr. diagnosed me with hypothyroid but said she does not treat it and that I would have to learn to live with it. It got to the point that I just couldn't do it anymore so I switched Drs. My new Dr. did the test and said that I did not have hypothyroid (?). Is it something that can come and go?

I am looking forward to your upcoming blogs, whether or not I have it, I would like to be equipped to combat it.


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