"The thyroid is involved in practically all body processes and thyroid disease treatment is complex and often includes using the right thyroid medications and taking care of other issues such as inflammation caused by the immune system. A malfunctioning thyroid gland can cause a number of serious clinical signs as well as a variety of vague and nonspecific symptoms that are usually shared – and often coincide – with a number of other diseases, including polycystic ovary disease and other female conditions. Of course, these factors most likely contribute to the difficulty experienced by many female thyroid patients in getting the right diagnosis but this does not explain why women are much more likely to be misdiagnosed than men.
Gender bias within the medical community is not a new thing and is the most detrimental during the diagnostic process. Recent studies indicate that female patients are more likely than male patients to report dissatisfaction with their medical care. Although some of this overall dissatisfaction comes from factors such as inadequate hospital cleanliness and incomplete discharge instructions, a significant factor is that many of these patients feel as though their medical and thyroid questions have not been appropriately addressed. Female patients must often contend with physicians who dismiss their symptoms, attributing them to anxiety instead of legitimate symptoms of thyroid problems. In the worst cases, the patient will be written off as emotional or hypochondriacal and no further diagnostic testing will be performed. And even if they do get diagnosed, nothing other than prescribed T4 treatment is recommended for their thyroid wellness.
There is an obvious need for improved training among physicians. Not only is it important for these healthcare providers to understand the complex and subtle presentation of thyroid disorders, they must also learn to consider the hormonal, reproductive, psychosocial, and socioeconomic factors that influence women’s health. Female patients must be persistent, making it sometimes necessary for them to seek a second, third, or even fourth opinion to find a doctor who will treat them as a patient and not as a stereotype. As this concept of individualized thyroid care, which I have advocated for years, gains popularity, female patients will hopefully experience faster and more efficient treatments and diagnoses."
Written by Dr. Ridha Arem, world renowned thyroid specialist, Houston endocrinologist, and author of The Thyroid Solution.