25+ Outrageous Things Said About Thyroid Disease

Doctors, Celebrities, Writers, and Bloggers -- Getting it Wrong!

Mary Shomon

It's interesting how often celebrities, writers, and even doctors get it so very wrong when they are quoted about thyroid disease. It happens so frequently that, frankly, I rarely even cover it anymore here at the About.com Thyroid site. But over the years, there have been some comments that are just so out there, so egregious, so error-filled, so contemptuous of patients, or so needlessly fear-inducing that it's necessary to shine a light on what's been said, and who is saying it.

Let's take a look at more than 25 of the most outrageous things that have been said about thyroid disease...

Mehmet Oz Has a Frat Party

Dr. Oz
Brad Barket/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

 [Oprah was having a] "having a frat party in [her] thyroid" 
-- Mehmet Oz, MD / "Dr. Oz", Cardiologist and Television Personality

The famous Dr. Oz was trying to explain his benefactor Oprah Winfrey's thyroid issues when he said that her on-again, off-again thyroid function was like a frat party in her thyroid.

Our advice for Dr. Oz: stick to cardiology.

Jeffrey Garber on Why Women Really Want Thyroid Treatment

Jeffrey Garber,
Harvard Health Vanguard

Women are eager to start thyroid medication because "there's a notion that if you speed up metabolism, the weight just falls off." 
-- Jeffrey Garber, MD, endocrinologist, Good Housekeeping magazine

One of the nation's most famous endocrinologists, Jeffrey Garber, told this to Good Housekeeping magazine.

Dr. Garber also shared this dismissive sentiment in the Wall Street Journal:

["Hypothyroidism increasingly is being diagnosed in people who don't have it, by endocrinologists whom Garber labeled as 'alternative.'"] "The alternative crowd is saying, 'Gee, this is why you're not feeling better, because these [mainstream] doctors are clueless.' "

Perhaps mainstream doctors are in fact clueless sometimes?

Peter Singer on Hyperthyroidism and Being in Love

shocked woman singer keck usc endocrinologist

 [Hyperthyroidism symptoms are like] "being in love."
-- Peter Singer, MD, Endocrinologist

Yes, endocrinologist Peter Singer did compare anxiety, panic attacks, a racing heartbeat, rapid weight loss, tremors, and risk of fatal thyroid storm to being in love.

He later said it was a joke. 

Most hyperthyroid patients don't get the joke, unfortunately.

Public Citizen's Sidney Wolfe Thinks Armour Thyroid is a Supplement

thyroid drug vial prescription medication

"Armour Thyroid is an unregulated, over-the-counter dietary supplement." 
-- Sidney Wolfe, MD, Worst Pills, Best Pills / Public Citizen

You want to think that consumer advocacy group Public Citizen knows what they're talking about, but claiming that a prescription drug is an over-the-counter supplement? Their top doctor Sidney Wolfe got it all wrong.

Richard Haber: Several Million is the Same as Twenty Million or More?

surprised doctor

 "Hypothyroidism [is[ a common hormonal imbalance affecting several million Americans"
-- Richard Haber, MD, endocrinologist, Mount Sinai School of Medicine

Richard Haber told the Huffington Post that hypothyroidism affects "several" million. The American Thyroid Association says it's at least 20 million.

Not even close, doc. 

Oprah and Her Vacation That Healed Her Thyroid Problem

oprah winfrey is hypothyroid oprah's thyroid condition
David McNew / Getty Images News

 (On supposedly "curing" her own thyroid problem)
"In July I was able to take a break. I went to sleep and woke up whenever I pleased. I sipped soy milk, downed vitamins, snacked on flaxseed, and allowed my body to restore itself."
-- Oprah Winfrey, Television Personality

Oh that Oprah! First she had a thyroid problem, then she cured it by taking a Hawaiian vacation and downing thyroid-slowing doses of soy, then it came back, then she decided not to treat it

Adrian Dobs Thinks Hypothyroidism is Rare


"The number of people who are overweight or obese because of a thyroid problem is miniscule...[and] hypothyroidism is relatively rare."
-- Adrian Dobs, MD, Johns Hopkins 

Dr, Adrian Dobs told Self Magazine that hypothyroidism is relatively rare.

Wonder what the 20 million+ people with the disease think of that?  

Susan Carlton and her Bad Thyroid Housekeeping

women need to exercise 1 hour a day

Thyroid disease is the "disease du jour."  
-- Susan Carlton, writer

Susan Carlton was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, but found it far too trendy, so she proceeded to write a hit piece for Good Housekeeping about the patients suffering from the condition.

Carlton then went on to share her plan for her condition:

"With all I'd learned about hypothyroidism, I had already decided that even if my levels had nudged up a bit, I would opt out of treatment. In the meantime, I'm drinking more java (for energy) and honing my crossword skills (for focus). As for the unwanted pounds, there's a spinning class on Saturday with my name on it."

We can only wonder how coffee, crosswords and spinning classes are doing with her effort to replace an essential hormone. 

American Thyroid Association Not Clear on Thyroid Drugs

swine flu desiccated thyroid armour thyroid

"Desiccated (dried and powdered) animal thyroid (Armour®), [is] now mainly obtained from pigs..."
-- American Thyroid Association

Actually, the American Thyroid Association should know that natural desiccated thyroid drugs such as Armour are ONLY obtained from pigs

Isadore Rosenfeld Says Thyroid Disease is Easy

tired woman in bed
Peter Dazeley/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

"All you need to do to treat your hypothyroidism is replace the missing hormone. It's easy -- just a pill a day."
-- Isadore Rosenfeld, MD 

Dr. Isadore Rosenfeld told Parade magazine that treating hypothyroidism is easy.

I wonder what the millions of hypothyroid patients who don't feel well think of that?

AP Writer Lauran Neergaard Thinks Thyroid Problems Are Easily Treated

surgery clipart.com

"Thyroid problems are easily treated, with a daily pill or, for hyperthyroidism, sometimes removing the gland." 
-- Lauran Neergaard, AP Health writer 

AP's Lauran Neergaard must have been talking to Dr. Rosenfeld when she said that thyroid problems are easily treated. And of course, having a 3-inch incision in your neck so a surgeon can remove your thyroid gland also apparently qualifies as an "easy treatment." 

Kidshealth.org Also Thinks Symptoms Go Away Easily

children kids with thyroid cancer nodules thyroiditis

"The good news is that hypothyroidism is easy to treat. Kids with this disease will have to take a pill every day, but their symptoms will go away."
-- KidsHealth.org

Kidshealth.org apparently knows better than the millions of adults who are struggling with hypothyroidism treatment. 

New York Times Ingfei Chen Also Says Thyroid Deficiency is Easily Treated


"The [thyroid hormone] deficiency is easily treated by replenishing the missing hormones with synthetic ones."
-- Ingfei Chen, writer

Writing in the New York Times, Chen repeated the "easily treated" mantra.

Scott Haig in Time Magazine Derides Patients Who Google

wondering at computer

 [Talking about a patient who did medical research, who he refers to derisively as a "Googler"] [They are] "suspicious and distrustful, their pressured sentences burst with misused, mispronounced words and half-baked ideas."
-- Scott Haig, MD

Dr. Scott Haig doesn't like patients who dare "Google," as he made clear in his Time magazine diatribe.

Some doctors clearly don't like empowered patients.

Richard Guttler Thinks Armour Thyroid is Headed for a Museum


"Armour Thyroid is headed to the Thyroid Museum for Antiquated Medicines."  
-- Richard Guttler, MD

Almost two decades ago, Thyroid.com founder and self-proclaimed "thyroidologist" Richard Guttler declared that Armour Thyroid was soon to be extinct. Looks like he was wrong. 

Thomas Repas in Endocrine Today Attacks Armour


 "I believe that desiccated thyroid is antiquated therapy and should no longer be used."
-- Thomas Repas, DO

Dr. Thomas Repas said this to Endocrine Today. 

He also said: 

[Endocrinologists don't use Armour because of an] "unacceptable level of variability batch to batch, often resulting in unacceptable variation in thyroid-stimulating hormone." 

He's entitled to his opinion, but how about a little science with the opinion? Especially when researchers have found that natural thyroid is as safe and effective as synthetic levothyroxine.

Atlantic Writer Olga Khazan Needs a Calculator

woman wondering

"Many people—possibly up to 2 million—who have a thyroid disorder haven't been diagnosed."
-- Olga Khazan, writer and thyoid patient

In an article in The Atlantic, Olga Khazan showed some fuzzy math, claiming that up to 2 million are undiagnosed.  Try ten times that number, Olga. 

Daniel Duick on NDT Potency

woman confused pills drugs thyroid medications

"There's a perception [that natural desiccated thyroid is] more natural since it's animal-derived, but the potency can vary"
-- Daniel Duick, MD, endocrinologist

Dr. Daniel Duick told Good Housekeeping that the potency of natural desiccated thyroid can vary. Interesting, given that it's FDA-regulated, and is required to meet potency guidelines.

Cindy Finch Says Thyroid Cancer is a Breeze in HuffPo


"Some cancer patients get off really easy...I've heard it a hundred times, 'I'm a cancer survivor, too.' 'Oh, really? What type of cancer did you have and what was your treatment?' 'Oh, I had thyroid cancer and had to take a radioactive pill for 30 days then I was all better.'"
-- Cindy Finch, writer, cancer survivor, cancer social worker

Cindy Finch, who counsels cancer patients, said some serious fighting words about thyroid cancer in her Huffington Post article.

Anthony Weetman Says It's In Your Head

A. Weetman

Patients who have "normal thyroid function tests" but insist they should be treated for multiple thyroid symptoms actually have "somatoform disorders."
-- Anthony Weetman, MD, UK endocrinologist

If your tests are normal -- whatever that may mean -- but you still insist you have symptoms, Dr. Weetman wants you to see a psychiatrist because it's "somatoform" -- doctorspeak for "all in your head."

Sofia Vergara Offers a Wealth of Misinformation About Thyroid Disease

sofia vergara modern family gloria thyroid cancer carcinoma hypothyroid
Getty Images Entertainment/Frazer Harrison

"Usually you only realize you have [thyroid cancer] after it's already spread and it's much harder to treat."
-- Sofia Vergara, thyroid cancer survivor, actress, and Synthroid spokesperson

The Modern Family star and Synthroid spokeswoman told WebMd that you only realize you have thyroid cancer after it's spread and it's harder to treat

As if that's not off-track enough, she also said, in Health Magazine:

"Actually, I feel very lucky. In a lot of women, the cancer isn't found until around menopause—and by then its too late."

Too late? Thyroid cancer is rarely found when it's "too late." 

Vergara also told Heallth magazine that after her thyroid cancer surgery:

"You can't make any strong movements, so for two months I couldn't drive. Your life stops for a while."

Most people spend a night or two in the hospital, and a few days to a week recuperating. Sofia is perhaps the only person told not to drive for two months after a thyroidectomy!

And Vergara also told Good Morning America

"You can fix [hypothyroidism] very easy. I hear so many people saying they have so many problems with their thyroid. I've never had a problem because I've taken control of it."

Not surprisingly, the "very easy" part of it may have had something to do with the fact that her appearance was part of her campaign for Synthroid?

You can't make this stuff up, folks. But apparently, Sofia Vergara can. 

American Thyroid Association Hypothyroidism Guidelines Suggest Psychiatrists

mad doctor

 “Referral to a mental health professional should be considered if the severity of the symptoms is not sufficiently explained by the severity of the biochemically-confirmed thyroid dysfunction or another medical condition.”
- 2014 Hypothyroidism Guidelines, American Thyroid Association

In their 2014 Hypothyroidism Guidelines, they write off the value of T3 and natural thyroid, and then say that patients who don't feel well need a psychiatric evaluation

I believe it's called "passing the buck."

Back to the Drawing Board


Looks like it's time for many of the doctors, celebrities, and writers to go back to the basics and do some Thyroid 101 homework.  

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