Hypothyroidism: An Under-Diagnosed Epidemic?
What initially began as a discussion on anxiety, heart palpitations, and panic attacks in women going through perimenopause has now become a full-blown discussion on hypothyroidism.
But, please don’t get lost in all of the twist and turns. Hormone imbalance, adrenal fatigue, and thyroid dysfunction can all contribute collectively or individually to the symptoms, and the more you know about these conditions, the better equipped you will be to get the help you need!
Hypothyroidism Under-Diagnosed in Women?
In his book, Hormones, Health, and Happiness: A Natural Medical Formula for Rediscovering Youth with Bioidentical Hormones, Dr. Steven F. Hotze, M.D., states that hypothyroidism affects women seven times more than it affects men.
He believes that genetic predisposition is one reason, and the effect of hormone imbalance during perimenopause is another. Dr. Hotze also believes that despite the high number of women who exhibit symptoms of hypothyroidism, the larger majority of them remain undiagnosed – but why?
According to Dr. Hotze, part of the problem is most physicians are afflicted with what he calls the herd mentality. They simply follow along with what everyone does with no questions asked. Another part of the problem, according to Dr. Hotze, is that physicians tend to treat lab values and not the patient.
Even though the list of symptoms of hypothyroidism in women is quite long and expansive, “most physicians do not give these symptoms much credence” says Dr. Hotze. “Instead, they rely exclusively on blood tests. If the tests say “normal” the patient is labeled a hypochondriac, or told she is depressed and sent home with a prescription for anti-depressants.”
Testing for Hypothyroidism is Inadequate
Nurse Practitioner, and author of the book, The Female Brain Gone Insane, Mia Lundin, agrees with Dr. Hotze. Mia also believes that the under-diagnosis of hypothyroidism in women is also due to the fact that most physicians only test for TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone released by the pituitary gland), when they should also be testing for active levels of the T4 and T3 thyroid hormones as well.
To a layperson like me, it seems reasonable that any test to determine thyroid dysfunction would include the thyroid hormones T4 and T3 in the evaluation. Yet, for decades, it has been the pituitary hormone, TSH, which has been the primary marker in diagnosing hypothyroidism.
But, what does this all mean for you? Well, if you are suffering with anxiety, panic attacks, and heart palpitations in perimenopause, it actually means a lot. Especially if you suspect your thyroid might be a contributing factor.
Far too many women fail to get the help they need for their symptoms of perimenopause from the medical system. I do not wish to indict the entire medical community. But, when I hear from countless women who complain over and over again they are not being listened to, or that their physician refuses to run tests because some preliminary exam says normal, well, Houston, we have a problem.
As usual, I still have quite a bit more to say about testing for hypothyroidism, so I will continue the discussion in my next blog post. If you are just now joining the conversation, however, go back and read my previous posts here, here, and here, and then join me again for the final installment!
Magnolia Miller is a certified healthcare consumer advocate in women's health and a women's freelance health writer and blogger at The Perimenopause Blog.