Finding a doctor that will adequately test for and treat hypothyroidism can seem like a daunting task.
Indeed, I've gone to more doctors than I can recall searching for one who would work with me to adequately treat my hypothyroidism.
Along the way, I've discovered there are some good questions to start with when interviewing your doctor.
Yes, you can interview your doctors.
They work for you.
You are paying them.
If they do not answer to your satisfaction…
you should fire them.
This can be intimidating, but it's necessary if you're serious about regaining your health.
Do not fear.
You may not find a doctor that answers all of these questions 100% correctly.
That might be ok.
If your doctor is willing to listen to you, partner with you, and even learn from you, you've likely found a winner. It's so important that you advocate for your own health care.
It's equally important that you find a flexible doctor willing to listen and work with you, not dictate to you.
5 Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Hypothyroidism
1. About Thyroid Labs
Q: What labs will you run to determine if my thyroid is functioning appropriately?
Will you primarily use TSH for diagnosing and determining whether my thyroid levels are optimal?
If the answer to this question is, “Yes, we primarily use TSH,” this should be an automatic deal-breaker. You don't need to go any further with the rest of the questions. The interview is over. As was explained in this post, TSH has been used as the gold standard for testing thyroid function, but it's a fairly useless test.
Be sure to check out “Your Thyroid Test is Wrong and What to Do About It” to get the low-down on the tests that you should request your doctor to run.
Your doctor may not list all of these tests, but at a very minimum they should be testing your Free T3 levels, Free T4 levels, and anti-thyroid antibodies.
2. About Lab Test Ranges
Q: What is the lab's “normal” range for these tests and what range do you believe would be optimal for me?
Ideally, your doctor will realize that the optimal range for you will be unique.
Typically people feel their best when their Free T3 levels are towards the top of the range and their Free T4 levels are in the mid to upper range.
If your doctor runs your vitamin D levels, you should be looking for levels in the upper part of the normal range.
3. What About My Symptoms?
Q: Will you take into consideration the presence or absence of my symptoms when dosing and not just labs?
The answer you're hoping to hear to this question is a resounding “Absolutely!”
The presence or absence of hypothyroid symptoms is so important! Your health care provider should listen to you and not just rely on a piece of paper with numbers on it for treatment.
Of course, if your labs are all at ideal levels, you and your doctor should also be open to exploring other problems that may be causing your symptoms. Maybe you need to look into adrenal function? Or a more advanced thyroid test: Reverse T3 levels. Or maybe you are having problems with anemia? Be aware, you could have confounding problems that are exasperating or mimicking your hypothyroid symptoms.
4. About Thyroid Drugs
Q: What thyroid replacement drug will you be prescribing for me?
If your doctor responds with levothyroxine (or synthroid) you may want to follow up with an additional questions: would you consider prescribing natural desiccated thyroid, such as Nature Throid or Armour thyroid?
If the doctor has answered all of the questions right up to this point and is willing to give natural desiccated thyroid a try, you're doing pretty good. If the doctor is not willing to be flexible on this point, I'd move on and look for a new health care provider.
It's also worth noting that there are some people who respond better to T3 only medication. Your doctor should be open to exploring this option, should you need it. Though, it appears from reading both the research as well as listening to numerous individual testimonies the vast majority of people respond the best to natural desiccated thyroid.
5. Testing Frequency
Q: How often will you run tests to check my thyroid levels?
After we have my levels adjusted to the optimal level, how often do you suggest I get tested?
Your health care provider should be checking your levels every 6-8 weeks until they are in the optimal range and you are feeling well. After which, your levels should be checked no less than once a year. Ideally, your doctor should give you a lab slip to keep on hand so you can go to the labs and have your blood drawn anytime you feel your levels may be off.
Please remember that neither Adrienne nor Trisha are doctors and we don't pretend to be either. Please do not make any changes to your exercise, diet, or supplement regiment without consulting with your physician.
And if you have hypothyroid symptoms, you should check out this book. I (Adrienne) bought it recently and it is a wealth of great information (albeit having quite a few typos). (The link to the book is an affiliate link. If you click on it and make a purchase, commissions might be earned.)
Do you have a health care provider who is doing a good job of treating your hypothryoidism?
What questions were a tell-tale sign that they were a keeper?
Trisha Gilkerson is a homeschooling mom to four crazy boys. She blogs with her awesome hubby Luke at Intoxicated on Life where they talk about faith, homeschooling, and health. They’ve authored the Write Through the Bible curriculum and family Bible Studies and have recently released their first healthy living book – Weeding Out Wheat: A Simple Faith Based Guide. They love connecting with their readers, so be sure to follow them on their blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.