January is Thyroid Awareness Month, and today we’re looking to help bring more awareness to hypothyroidism, a condition that affects millions upon millions of people in America alone. If you suffer from fatigue, constipation, feeling cold or have brittle nails you may be suffering from this common condition. Renowned internist and endocrinologist Dr. Jordan Geller, and hypothyroidism patient Elisa Aldridge joined me for an interview recently to discuss the condition, the most common symptoms, risk factors, management options and more. Please be sure to watch the video below for the interview in its entirety and I’ve also transcribed it as well.
Candace Rose: Dr. Geller what is hypothyroidism?
Dr. Jordan Geller: “Thank you again by the way for having us on and we’re really happy to be a part of this campaign with Abbvie to talk about hypothyroidism. It’s a condition that affects millions and millions of people in America, many of whom are undiagnosed. It’s a condition where the thyroid gland gland which is a little gland in our neck starts to fail and people develop quite a few symptoms, many of which are really disrupting their quality of life.”
Candace Rose: What are some of the most common symptoms?
Dr. Jordan Geller: “Well, the most common symptoms that we see are fatigue, constipation, feeling cold. People often develop puffiness around their eyes or their hands and feet. They may notice dry skin, brittle nails, hair loss – these are the most common things that we see.”
Candace Rose: Who is at risk for hypothyroidism?
Dr. Jordan Geller: “The greatest risk factor that we know of is people who have autoimmune conditions, people who have a family history of other family members with thyroid disease. It’s much more common in women (it’s about five to eight times more common in women) and more common in people who have had any radiation to their head or neck for example for cancer treatment; patients who are on certain medications that can affect the thyroid gland or people who have had surgery to remove the thyroid gland.”
Candace Rose: How is a diagnosis made?
Dr. Jordan Geller: “We make the diagnosis by meeting with the patient, going over all of the symptoms, examining their thyroid gland with our hands and sometimes doing an ultrasound to look at the gland and ultimately with the blood test we do that’s called TSH which is a marker of your thyroid levels in the blood.”
Candace Rose: Elisa what symptoms did you experience?
Elisa Aldridge: “Well, just like Dr. Geller said I had quite a few of those symptoms. I had brittle nails, dry hair. I had severe GI issues. I was tired all the time and I couldn’t explain why this was. I had brain fog, forgetfulness. I had a plethora of symptoms, but I didn’t really attribute it to anything. I kind of compartmentalized it and just ignored it. It wasn’t until I went into my doctor for a regular checkup. It had nothing to do with my thyroid, but she felt my neck and said ‘ma’am your thyroid is swollen’ and they sent me down for blood work. About a week later they gave me a call and let me know that I had hypothyroidism.”
Candace Rose: What is your routine like now?
Elisa Aldridge: “That was something that the doctor really emphasized, my routine and sticking to it. Part of that is making sure that I take my medication every morning with a bottle of water and wait about 30 minutes to an hour before I have anything to eat or drink. The other important thing is making sure that with that diagnosis that when I go to pick up my medication, that I’m getting exactly what was prescribed.”
Candace Rose: Do you have any advice for people living with hypothyroidism?
Elisa Aldridge: “Definitely. The biggest piece of advice I can offer is if you think you have it or if you have symptoms, go and talk to your doctor. Open that conversation up so that you have that relationship and get on a personal basis with them so that they can help you.”
Candace Rose: Dr. Geller what are management options?
Dr. Jordan Geller: The management options for thyroid hormones is basically thyroid hormone replacement. This is available in a pill form that patients take once a day in the morning on an empty stomach and it’s typically a lifelong commitment, so it’s really important to set up a routine to take it at the same time everyday, not skipping a dose and letting your physician know if you’re on any other medicines, any other supplements or you have any other new health conditions.”
Candace Rose: Do either of you have any additional tips or information you’d like to share with us?
Dr. Jordan Geller: “Well, we’d love to refer people to the website OurMorningRoutine.com. This is a great site full of information for hypothyroidism, the right symptoms for people to look for, the questions they should bring up to their doctor. There’s stories on there like Elisa’s and other patients as well and other doctors. We really want to get the word out and we really want people to understand also that if they are on thyroid hormone, it’s critical that they get what their physician is prescribing them. When they go to the pharmacy, if it’s not correct they need to speak up and they need to let their doctor know.”