The cost of seeing a thyroid specialist can vary depending on the specific health insurance plan and its copayment, deductible, etc. Thyroid disease is often managed by endocrinologists and thyroidologists, but some primary care physicians can also diagnose and monitor it. Other health professionals, such as naturopaths and chiropractors, can provide complementary treatments. Tamara Wexler, MD, PhD, an endocrinologist at NYU Langone Health in New York City, recommends seeing an endocrinologist at least once when you are first diagnosed with hypothyroidism to review your condition, test results, and treatment plan.
At that time, the primary care physician usually takes over. Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) is a condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone. About 5% of the general population in the United States has hypothyroidism, although this number has varied widely in studies and within certain groups of people. Women, especially those over 60, are more likely to have hypothyroidism.
Some studies have shown rates as high as 25% in the older population. Common symptoms in adults are fatigue, cold all the time, weight gain, constipation, voice changes, and dry skin, but clinical presentation may differ with age, sex, and other factors. In thyroid disease, you may end up with too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism) or too little (hypothyroidism). Thyroid tests should only be ordered after a detailed medical history and specific physical examination have suggested thyroid problems. Thyroid function is largely dependent on another gland, the pituitary gland, which monitors hormone levels and tells the thyroid how much it should produce.
Imaging tests, especially for hyperthyroidism, may include an ultrasound, a thyroid scan, or a radioactive iodine uptake test to identify thyroid nodules and see how active the gland is. When thyroid hormone levels drop, the pituitary gland releases more TSH to stimulate the thyroid to increase production. In other words, the thyroid gland itself is fine but it doesn't produce thyroid hormone if the hypothalamus doesn't tell you through the pituitary gland to do so. Naturopaths can discuss how nutrition affects thyroid disorders and make sure you have a diet plan that supports thyroid health. Chiropractors can provide supportive thyroid care such as nutritional guidance or ways to relieve musculoskeletal pain associated with thyroid disease (such as carpal tunnel syndrome or joint pains).
Hyperthyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland becomes overactive and produces too much thyroid hormone. While an integrative approach to thyroid health may seem attractive, know that diseases do not necessarily follow the guidelines recommended by professional societies such as the American Thyroid Association (ATA) or the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE). Chiropractors are legally prohibited from prescribing thyroid medication which means they cannot treat or cure thyroid conditions. Orozco specializes in endocrinology and has a particular interest in thyroid disease, parathyroid disease, thyroid cancer and endocrine tumors. Thyroid nodules can actually be the cause of an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) or in rare cases they can be cancer.