Getting your hypothyroidism diagnosis can feel like competing in a Tough Mudder race. There are plenty of obstacles, sometimes there are setbacks, and it really pays off to know what you’re getting into before you begin. More people than ever know you need to be your own advocate at the doctor’s office. This is especially true if your healthcare plan leaves something to be desired. This is obviously a big topic, so for now I’m just going to tackle other conditions your doctor might assume you have.
Admit it, you used WebMD or Dr. Google, and now you think you have hypothyroidism. You might be right, and having an intuition about your body is a good place to start. Still, your doctor might think you have a number of other conditions. Your best bet is to understand what’s going on with your body and know how to describe your symptoms going in. If you actually do have hypothyroidism, your doctor will need a clear description of what’s going on in order to rule out other potential issues.
So here’s what you should expect. I saw multiple doctors before getting my hypothyroidism diagnosis. If your doctor says you don’t have it but can’t explain your symptoms with anything else, make another appointment with someone else. You might have to see 10 doctors. But finally feeling normal and getting a start at some answers is worth the hassle.
Hypothyroidism diagnosis: Your doctor might say you have these conditions
This isn’t anywhere close to a full list, but it is everything doctors suggested I might have. Admittedly, the symptoms are similar. I’ve also added things I wish I had done to help my doctors rule out issues I knew I didn’t have. Hopefully they’ll help you cut through the hurdles and get to your hypothyroidism diagnosis faster.
OK, not sleeping enough or deeply enough can wreak havoc on your life. Your energy levels will plummet, and it will take enormous amounts of effort to get through your day. Yeah, you’ll probably gain weight, too. Logging too few hours of sleep increases your hunger hormone ghrelin and suppresses the satiety hormone leptin. That’s what leads to snacking when you’re sleepy. While I don’t log as many hours as I should, I knew this wasn’t the issue. I’ve never been a snorer except in the case of extreme head colds. If your doctor asks you if anyone has told you that you snore, this is what they’re thinking about.
What I wish I had done:
I discussed this before in my guide to figuring out hypothyroidism and weight loss before you’re put on meds, but ruling out lifestyle factors is key. Since exhaustion was one of my main symptoms, I wish I had kept a sleep diary or used a fitness tracker to keep tabs on my zzzs. Log your bedtime, wake time, how many times you got up during the night, and how you feel in the morning if you don’t have a fitness tracker. If you have a fitness tracker, don’t forget to log how you feel in the morning.
If you’re logging under eight hours, set a date and start getting eight hours consistently. Keep tracking the same information. If your energy levels in the morning stay the same, you’ll make a stronger case that it’s not your sleep that’s the problem. (And make it loud and clear if you’re not a snorer.) If you’re willing to do an overnight in a sleep lab, that will also quickly rule this out.
Several hypothyroidism symptoms have crossover with depression, from exhaustion and inability to focus to unexpected weight gain. You know your mental state better than anyone. If you’re not sure if you’re depressed, take an online quiz from a reputable depression treatment center. If you’ve recently had major life changes, it might be depression, even if you don’t feel sad. But if you know you’re not depressed and you still feel horrible, don’t let your doctor dismiss you with an incorrect diagnosis.
What I wish I had done:
Several doctors I saw were pushy about this one. I wish I had been more confident in rebutting them. My family had a history of depression and anxiety and the doctors used that as the basis for their assumption. Yes, doctors have years of medical training under their belts, but they don’t know your mind and body. If you’re not depressed, speak up. Don’t let the authority of their medical degree silence you.
I hope what I went through was extreme, an exception to the rule. Even though I have a coach, measure all of my food, and eat the same things daily, I was told I must just be overeating. Even when I explained that I weigh out my food, one doctor told me I must not know how to use a food scale. Sudden weight gain is common with hypothyroidism. If you’ve recently gained weight and you’re doing everything “right” like sticking to your caloric needs and logging time in the gym, don’t be embarrassed and don’t let a doctor shame you.
What I wish I had done:
There’s really no preventing getting a doctor this out of touch. I read reviews about the doctor before I booked an appointment. Not everything was a glowing review, but nothing sent up red flags. Do your research when you can since it will save you at least some headaches. But if your doctor thinks you’re overeating, sadly, a food journal will do little or nothing. You should keep one for you, though, especially since if you do indeed get a hypothyroidism diagnosis, you’ll need to avoid certain foods.
Although I did correct her, I wish I had stood up for myself more. Doctors don’t know what or how much you eat, so don’t let them act like they do. Be honest, be accountable for where you might be slipping up, but also expect respect. If you don’t get it, speak up, and move onto the next one with your head held high.
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