The American Thyroid Association states that hypothyroidism affects almost 5% of Americans. Typically, a primary care physician can easily manage the condition. However, there are certain situations in which an individual with hypothyroidism might have to go to an endocrinologist, which is a doctor specializing in the endocrine system, to supervise that patient’s condition. In general, endocrinologists are specifically knowledgeable about thyroid gland function as well as other glands that secrete hormones.
When Should You See an Endocrinologist?
Experts recommend that you consult with an endocrinologist after getting a diagnosis of hypothyroidism to confirm your diagnosis, test results, and treatment strategy. After a couple of visits and depending on the specific circumstances of your diagnosis, you can go back to your primary doctor and see your endocrinologist as needed. There are certain instances, however, in which it will be in your best interest to have an endocrinologist supervise your care.
If You Have a Lump or Nodule in Your Thyroid
If you notice that you have growth, mass, nodule, or lump in your thyroid—a butterfly-shaped gland below the voice box and in front of the neck—you need to get it checked by a thyroid specialist. The majority are benign or harmless, but approximately 5% of thyroid growths are malignant or cancerous, notes a renowned autoimmune disease treatment specialist in Salt Lake City. He adds that while rare, sometimes it’s the thyroid growth that causes hypothyroidism.
If Your Symptoms Persist or Get Worse Even with Treatment
If you have been taking thyroid hormone replacement medications religiously but find that your symptoms stay the same or worsen, you need a second opinion from an endocrinologist. The reason for this is that in some individuals with hypothyroidism, determining the right concentration of medication is just more difficult.
Your Hypothyroidism Is Caused by Your Malfunctioning Pituitary Gland
While this is rare, in some individuals, their pituitary gland is unable to release thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH), which is responsible for stimulating thyroid hormone production. This is a complex disorder that requires the supervision of an endocrinologist.
You Are Trying to Get Pregnant or Are Pregnant
Carrying a child significantly changes your hormone levels. Thus, if you’re pregnant or want to get pregnant, you need an endocrinologist to adjust your medication and keep a close eye on your treatment to ensure that you’re getting the right amount. Some pregnant women require 25% up to 50% more medication during pregnancy. Additionally, untreated or improperly treated hypothyroidism increases the risk of miscarriage.
Your Thyroid Gland Is Enlarged
A goiter is basically an enlargement of all or a part of the thyroid gland. If you notice that you have one, an endocrinologist can help you determine why you’ve developed it and what you need to treat it. Likewise, you need to consult an endocrinologist if you think you have a goiter, whether or not you suffer from hypothyroidism.
In most cases, a primary care doctor can easily monitor and supervise the treatment of hypothyroidism. However, if one of the above situations applies to you, you need an endocrinologist or thyroid specialist to supervise your treatment.