Thyroid Patients: 5 Reasons Why We Should Give Thanks

There are many times when being a thyroid patient can be tremendously discouraging and frustrating. But giving up is not the way forward. And gratitude can be an important part of the healing process.

So it's time to point out some things that we should be grateful for: five reasons why thyroid patients should instead give thanks.

Social Media Has Transformed Our Thyroid Community

women on computers

Social media - like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterist may not seem like a clear winner in the "thankfulness" department. But social media have changed the game, thyroid-wise. We now have a place where patients can share information with each other, where we can learn from the cutting-edge physicians and experts -- those who are not beholden to drug companies, or groups who make recommendations biased by outdated, self-interested information.

If you are new to social media, learn how to best use social media for thyroid support, information and advocacy.

(Note: another reason to give thanks, in the social media realm? Groups like Women, Action, and the Media have focused effort on fighting harassment of women on Twitter. One of their first successes? The November 2014 suspension of the Twitter account RealThyroid, which operated anonymously since 2009, attacking natural thyroid drugs and T3, promoting levothyroxine manufacturers, and calling women with thyroid disease -- and thyroid advocates, including myself - drug addicts, drug pushers, fakers, frauds, "Hashi hags" and "Hypo Hussies," and sexist and pornographic epithets that I won't repeat.)

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Medication Options Are More Available


When I first started out as a thyroid advocate, two decades ago, very few patients were offered thyroid hormone replacement options beyond levothyroxine - synthetic T4.

While things haven't changed as fast as many patients would like, far more doctors are now willing to prescribe T3 and natural desiccated thyroid drugs. And more studies are showing the benefits of adding T3 to a T4-only treatment, and the safety and effectiveness of natural desiccated thyroid - NDT -- for treating hypothyroidism. We still have miles to go, but we're at least on the right road.

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Patients Can Avoid Needless Thyroid Surgery

laboratory technician picks up a test tube with a human blood sample
David Silverman/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Until recently, if you had a suspicious thyroid nodule, the next step was a fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy to determine if it was cancerous. Up to 30% of the nodules assessed by FNA turned out to be indeterminate/inconclusive. 

For those patients, a thyroidectomy -- complete surgical removal of the thyroid gland - was recommended. After surgery and analysis of the nodules, it turned out that a substantial number of those indeterminate or inconclusive nodules were actually benign. 

The patients ended up without a thyroid gland, and needing lifelong thyroid hormone replacement to treat the resulting hypothyroidism. Until recently, as many as 135,000 patients a year had an unnecessary thyroidectomy due to an inconclusive FNA.

Now, a new test can be performed on the biopsy results. The Veracyte Afirma Thyroid Analysis test reduces the number of indeterminate or inconclusive results, and helps ensure that most of those patients get the correct biopsy diagnosis, preventing needless surgery and lifelong hypothyroidism.

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Optimization - Not Normalization - Is a Therapeutic Goal

happy women

For decades, doctors have felt that achieving "euthyroid" levels - thyroid test levels that fell into the reference range -- was the goal of thyroid treatment. This left millions of patients complaining of continuing thyroid symptoms, and being told that continuing thyroid symptoms are in your head. Now, cutting-edge, innovative practitioners like Richard Shames, MD, Kent Holtorf, MD, David Borenstein, MD, Erika Schwartz, MD, Sara Gottfried, MD and others have made "optimal treatment" their goal for thyroid patients.

Optimal treatment focuses on safely resolving symptoms, preventing other related complications (like high cholesterol, obesity, fatigue, and hair loss), and ensuring that patients feel and live well, not just take a pill every day and continue to suffer. Learn more about how these doctors focus on optimal treatment for hypothyroidism.

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We've Gotten a Well-Deserved Voice

Again, we still have a way to go, but thyroid patients are getting a well-deserved voice in our care. It's mainly due to our own efforts to reach out and educate others, including:

Helping us gain our voice? Clearly, the power of social media, and the support of compassionate, engaged and knowledgeable practitioners play key roles.

We are also seeing the rise of advocacy groups, such as ThyroidChange, the National Academy of Hypothyroidism, and new professional groups of integrative physicians on the horizon. These groups are working at a macro level to help move forward the changes we need.

At the same time, thyroid patients are also going within, and coming to a place of acceptance and healing, using a variety of mind-body techniques. New tools, such as the Thyroid Meditation, help us use our burgeoning voices in ways that not only help ourselves, but help our thyroid community.

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We Get to Choose...

In the end, in connecting with many thousands of thyroid patients each year, one thing has become clear: more thyroid patients are coming to the important realization that struggling to feel well may always be a challenge for those of us with lifelong hypothyroidism -- or any chronic disease for that matter -- but there's one thing that no pill or endocrinologist or herb can change, and that's how we choose to live our lives, and whether our health controls us, or vice versa. And for that, I truly give thanks.

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