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Friday, November 23, 2007

They brushed off my questions: Incorrect medical decision-making for a thyroid problem

I spent months being treated for acid reflux-like symptoms, and I found myself seeing doctor after doctor. They all treated me for acid reflux – a commonly diagnosed problem of stomach acid flowing backward from the stomach into the esophagus – and brushed off my questions asking if my problem couldn't be related to a thyroid condition. There is a history of thyroid problems in my family and my instincts kept telling me my problems were related to my thyroid gland. The doctors continued to tell me I just had acid reflux and I should keep taking the "little purple pill." I couldn't understand how I could so suddenly develop acid reflux. After all, I had always been able to eat anything I wanted and now even eating cereal and drinking water made me hurt.

After seeing several different local specialists and undergoing many, many tests, I referred myself to an endocrinologist (someone who specializes in thyroid diseases) at a large medical center for another opinion. Within five minutes of meeting this endocrinologist, he was convinced all of my symptoms were related to being hyperthyroid (too much thyroid hormone). He explained to me that when you are hyperthyroid all the systems in your body are hyper (overworking) and can give you symptoms I was experiencing like acid reflux! I was never so relieved – I had finally found someone who believed that my symptoms were related to a thyroid problem. Further testing confirmed his diagnosis, and surgery was scheduled to remove my thyroid gland. It seems my instincts were right after all. Since having surgery (I now need daily thyroid hormone replacement) my symptoms have disappeared and I no longer need "the little purple pill" for acid reflux.

My only regret is not finding the right doctor sooner. I could have avoided many unnecessary tests and months of suffering.

Dr. Pikula's Advice: Sometimes you have to keep asking and pursuing answers until a situation makes sense.

Browse for related stories in the index at the very bottom of this page, or read a thyroid story.

Thanks to Donna Pikula, DDS, for the source, “After the Diagnosis: How to Look Out for Yourself or a Loved One.”

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