Doctors Warn, Beware of Misinformation Regarding Thyroid Health

Salt Lake City, UT — (ReleaseWire) — 02/27/2022 — As one of the main glands that controls cellular function, the thyroid can take credit for assisting with a lot of the inner workings of the human body. Intermountain Healthcare experts say, however, it is also an easy and often erroneous to place to cast blame at the thyroid when something feels a little off.

“There is so much disinformation about thyroid disease, it’s hard to know where to begin,” said Dr. Monica Moreno, endocrinologist for Intermountain Medical Group.

While the three main thyroid-related issues โ€” hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism and thyroid nodules โ€” are very real and may need medical attention, Dr. Moreno said it is important for patients to consider there may be other underlying causes contributing to things like fatigue and weight fluctuations.

“Our lives are stressful. A person’s diet may not be good. They’re busy, working long hours, all of which can lead to feelings of fatigue, weight gain, mood changes, hair loss, brittle nails and dry skin,” Dr. Moreno said. “Because those can be symptoms of hypothyroidism, people often want to blame that, rather than addressing the stress and lifestyle that could also be contributing factors.”

In order to determine if such issues are thyroid related, the symptoms have to be correlated with a lab test, generally available through a patient’s primary care physician, Dr. Moreno said.

“If the tests are normal, that’s not always what the patient wants to hear,” Dr. Moreno said. “People want an explanation for their fatigue that goes beyond stress or lifestyle. They often want something that can be treated with a pill.”

If the diagnosis is related to hypothyroidism, medication is often used to treat the problem.

“Some patients can have transient hypothyroidism that comes and goes; others will need medication for life,” Dr. Moreno said.

Hypothyroidism, which is a deficiency in the thyroid’s production of the thyroid hormone, is more common than hyperthyroidism, which is an overproduction of the thyroid hormone. According to Dr. Moreno, a primary care provider can easily manage most hypothyroid cases. If the issue is hyperthyroidism, often an endocrinologist will get involved.

“Hyperthyroidism is not a chronic condition like hypo,” Dr. Moreno said. “Generally medication or an oblation surgery can help resolve the hyperthyroid problem.”

“The most common cause of hypothyroidism is auto immune,” Dr. Moreno continued. “The distinction to remember is that hashimoto’s is the disease that can cause hypothyroidism, but hypothyroidism does not cause hashimoto’s. It only goes one way.”

As for thyroid nodules, Dr. Moreno said up to 50 percent of the population can have nodules without even knowing; and 90 to 95 percent are non-cancerous.

“We don’t have screening recommendations for nodules, because even the small percentage that could be cancerous, it is a very slow-growing cancer,” Dr. Moreno said.

Thyroid nodules are often found incidentally, when the patient is being examined for something else.

As a general rule, women are more impacted by thyroid issues than men, Dr. Moreno said. “There are two peaks for women when they may see a problem, during the reproductive age (20s and 30s), and during menopausal age (40s or 50s). However, I see patients ages 16 to 85 for hypothyroidism.”

Although prevention is always a good idea when it comes to health, there is not much to be done to prevent thyroid problems beyond a basic healthy diet.

“Sometimes things like thyroid nodules just happen and we don’t know why, but it doesn’t seem to be lifestyle related,” Dr. Moreno said. “Still, a healthy diet and lifestyle will help with everything, whether the root cause is thyroid or not.”

Monica Moreno, MD, is a practicing endocrinologist with Intermountain St. George Endocrine and Diabetes Clinic and a member of Intermountain Medical Group.

About Intermountain Healthcare
Located in Utah, Idaho, and Nevada, Intermountain Healthcare is a nonprofit system of 25 hospitals, 225 clinics, the Intermountain Medical Group with some 2,700 employed physicians and advanced care practitioners, a health plans division called SelectHealth, Homecare, and other health services. Helping people live the healthiest lives possible, Intermountain is committed to improving community health and is widely recognized as a leader in transforming healthcare by using evidence-based best practices to consistently deliver high-quality outcomes at sustainable costs. For more information, see Intermountain Healthcare or the Intermountain Healthcare Blog.

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