Exhausted? Gaining Weight? Symptoms of Thyroid Disease
Signs of Thyroid Disorder
For most of her life, Marie Myung-Ok Lee, now 43, had been plagued by cold hands and feet and thinning hair. The symptoms were classic signs of a thyroid disorder, although Lee didn't know it. Then, when she was 34, she had a miscarriage at 12 weeks. "The doctors told me that many first pregnancies miscarry and not to be concerned," says Lee. "But I read a lot of books about miscarriage, and undetected thyroid disease kept coming up as a major cause."
Lee asked her doctor to give her the blood test that screens for thyroid disorders by measuring levels of TSH, or thyroid stimulating hormone; her TSH was 5.0. "The doctor, who'd been reluctant to order the test, said to me, 'See, I told you everything's fine. Your thyroid is normal.'"
Except that it wasn't. More than four years ago, the guidelines for what's considered a normal thyroid changed. Previously, experts flagged a TSH level of 5.0 or above as hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid; now, anything over 3.0 could indicate a problem. But not all doctors agree on this, and some are reluctant to screen patients, saying it's unwarranted. As a result, experts say that up to 27 million people, a majority of them women, may have thyroid disease, and about half of them are undiagnosed. "It's shocking how frequently hypothyroidism goes undiagnosed," says Robert McConnell, MD, codirector of the New York Thyroid Center at Columbia University Medical Center. "It's so common, and it's easily treated by taking thyroid replacement hormone in a pill."
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