Not Treating Your Thyroid is Costing You Big
You might be thinking, “Well, it’s a good thing that I’m treating my thyroid then!”.
But are you?
If you are undergoing treatment for your thyroid but still experiencing the symptoms of low thyroid then whatever you are doing isn’t working.
Unfortunately, the way doctors approach thyroid management often results in persistent symptoms of hypothyroidism even when using thyroid medications.
You’ll know if you fit into this category because you’ll have been told that your lab tests are “perfect” or “normal” yet you still experience symptoms of low thyroid like weight gain, hair loss, constipation, fatigue, sleep issues, and so on.
And this is where not treating your thyroid costs you big.
Many thyroid patients just assume that they will have to live with these symptoms based on what they’ve heard from doctors and other patients.
In fact, if you look at other thyroid patients you will see some scary statistics.
Many thyroid patients continue to suffer from low thyroid symptoms 10 years after their initial diagnosis.
And this is a huge problem.
If you look at hypothyroidism as something you just have to live with and something that’s going to be with you forever then you’re missing the point.
While it is true that hypothyroidism may be with you forever, it doesn’t have to be the case that you need to suffer from low thyroid symptoms forever.
There’s a situation, one that you should be actively trying to obtain, where you have thyroid disease but barely notice it because your medication is optimized and you are feeling great.
This is the state that you should always be trying to achieve.
And not trying to achieve this state is where things get ugly.
Today I want to make the argument that not treating your thyroid may be one of the most expensive things that you can do.
In the end, it should be obvious to you that you should be spending a lot more time and energy learning about your thyroid so that you can get back to 100%.
Because, unfortunately, you can’t count on your doctor to help get you there.
Let’s jump in…
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How Much Dealing With Hypothyroidism Will Cost You
First, let me start by saying that the things we are going to be discussing only apply if you aren’t treating your thyroid correctly.
In other words, hypothyroidism doesn’t have to cost you this much money or cause you this many problems and that’s the entire point of this article.
I’m not trying to tell you that your life is miserable and that you must suffer from these consequences.
Instead, I’m trying to help you understand how important it is to take your thyroid and your health into your own hands.
Next, a couple of disclaimers.
The values and figures that we will be discussing are just estimates and may not reflect actual prices that you have to pay for any given condition.
It’s obviously impossible for me to accurately assess the cost that any given problem or medical condition will cost any single person so we are going to use averages instead.
In addition, just because hypothyroidism tends to cause the problems and complications we are about to discuss doesn’t mean it will cause all of them in you.
As a result, even though I will throw out some actual values and numbers, think of the consequences as more qualitative than quantitative.
In other words, how much is it costing you to not be able to do the things that you love?
That sort of thing.
With these in mind, let’s talk about the costs associated with undertreated hypothyroidism.
#1. The Cost of High Cholesterol.
We are starting with high cholesterol because this is something that not many thyroid patients realize is connected to their thyroid.
It is well known, and I’ve discussed it before, that there is a connection between low thyroid function and high cholesterol (1).
The lower your thyroid goes the higher your cholesterol goes.
This means if you are a hypothyroid patient who is being underdosed then you will likely experience high cholesterol.
But here’s the problem.
Most doctors consider high cholesterol and hypothyroidism as two unrelated phenomena.
They will happily treat your thyroid with levothyroxine while also throwing you on a cholesterol-lowering medication (2) like a statin (atorvastatin was the #1 most commonly prescribed medication in 2019).
When the better option would just be to increase your dose of thyroid medication which could then help naturally lower your cholesterol level.
High cholesterol is an expensive medical condition because of its link to heart disease (3).
It’s estimated to cost businesses over 200 billion dollars per year due to issues such as lost productivity.
But it also costs patients who have it in the form of stress, lab tests, medications, and doctor visits.
It’s hard to pin down exactly how much high cholesterol costs but here are some estimates:
- The cost of cholesterol-lowering medications may be as high as $2,177 depending on which medications you are taking and your insurance.
- The cost of changing your diet to treat high cholesterol is estimated to be around $1.50 to $2 per day or up to $730 per year.
- The cost of cholesterol-lowering supplements (fish oil, red yeast rice, oat bran, psyllium, etc.) could range be another $75 per month.
And these values are only for treatment.
They don’t take into account the potential for negative outcomes like a heart attack or heart disease which could dramatically increase these numbers due to doctor visits, hospital stays, and so on.
What’s important to remember here is the connection between your thyroid and high cholesterol (4).
Sure, high cholesterol could be caused by something other than your thyroid but if your thyroid isn’t optimized then you won’t know for sure.
As a result, if you’ve been told that you have high cholesterol then take a good look at your thyroid lab values to see if they are optimized.
If they aren’t, then that’s where you should start.
And, if you are someone reading this who doesn’t have high cholesterol just remember that it tends to come as you age.
So just because you don’t have high cholesterol from your thyroid right now doesn’t mean it won’t come later.
#2. The Cost of Weight Gain.
Next up is probably one of the biggest and that is the symptom of weight gain.
Again, it is well known that weight gain is a primary symptom of low thyroid function.
You can find it in just about any standard physiology or endocrinology textbook out there.
As thyroid function falls, you will gain weight. Period.
Low thyroid function slows down the metabolism and results in weight gain through a number of different mechanisms.
This is why so many hypothyroid patients out there gain weight and have a hard time losing weight.
The problem with weight gain is that it’s easy to blame on other factors.
So even if you are a hypothyroid patient who is being undertreated with thyroid medication, your concerns about your weight can be hand-waved away by your doctor suggesting that it’s all about your diet and how much you exercise.
While your diet and activity level are certainly important for your weight and overall health, they will never be as important as optimizing your thyroid.
Try exercising more and eating less when your metabolism is 20% less than what it should be because your thyroid is undertreated.
It doesn’t work out.
Because of these factors, many hypothyroid patients struggle with obesity.
And how much does obesity cost? Quite a bit.
Some estimate that being overweight (with a BMI > 30) costs women up to $4,879 per year and men $2,646 per year.
The numbers get significantly higher when you factor in the value of lost life.
These numbers take into account loss of wages, the price of disability, sick leave, absenteeism, decreased productivity, gasoline use, life insurance premiums, and the value of lost life from premature death.
They don’t take into account things that you might do to try and help with weight loss including things like programs, gym memberships, diets, and so on.
They also don’t include the psychological impact that being overweight has on quality of life.
I won’t get too much into that aspect because if you are struggling with being overweight then all of this is probably well-known to you.
This is exactly why we are discussing it here today.
Instead of focusing on what being overweight will cost you, focus more on how treating your thyroid can help you lose weight.
No, optimizing your thyroid doesn’t result in magical weight loss (though it can for some) for most thyroid patients but it does make losing weight much easier.
As I mentioned previously, imagine trying to lose weight with a 20% reduction in your metabolism.
Now imagine trying to lose weight without that 20% reduction.
It just makes everything easier and more doable.
#3. The Cost of Fatigue.
Perhaps not as important as some of the others we will discuss today is the symptom of fatigue.
Hopefully, you are seeing a trend here.
Many of the problems that thyroid patients face stem from the fact that their thyroid is undertreated and this one is no different.
Fatigue is one of those symptoms that is hard to pinpoint the exact cause.
So even if you bring up this symptom to your doctor you will probably be hit with something like “you are just getting older” or something similar.
While many factors can contribute to fatigue, you simply can’t say it’s not from your thyroid until your thyroid is optimized.
In terms of cost, it’s hard to know how much fatigue costs any single person due to how variable this symptom can be.
It’s estimated that fatigue costs employers up to $130 billion dollars per year.
How this breaks down at an individual level is difficult to figure out but if you factor in lost work days then it may cost as much as $3,000 per year.
#4. The Cost of Hair Loss.
Next up we have hair loss.
Hair loss is another hypothyroid symptom that can occur if the thyroid remains untreated and is a topic that I’ve devoted a lot of time to.
If you’re struggling with hair loss then make sure to check out these resources.
More to the point of this article, let’s talk about how much it will cost you to experience hair loss.
Because hair loss varies from person to person, the amount of money that each person may expect to spend on this symptom will obviously vary as well.
More severe cases of hair loss may require more expensive therapies while less severe cases may be able to be improved with minor treatments like supplements.
As far as therapies go, here are a few with their associated costs:
- Hair transplant – The cost of this expensive procedure ranges from $5,000 to $15,000.
- Hair loss supplements – Usually around $20 to $50 per month.
- Doctor visits, medications, and lab tests – This May cost up to $50 or more per month depending on which type of doctor you see and how many medications you use.
- PRP injections – $500 to $2,000.
- Wigs – Anywhere from $80 to $300 depending on the quality.
- Low-level laser therapy – Usually in the range of $400 to $500.
This isn’t an exhaustive list of all potential hair loss therapies but it does hit some of the major treatments.
These values also don’t take into account the psychological impact that hair loss can have on both men and women.
If you are a patient with hypothyroidism who is also suffering from hair loss then be sure to focus on your thyroid first before jumping into the more expensive options.
It may be the case that treating your thyroid solves most of your hair loss.
#5. The Cost of Depression.
Depression (along with anxiety) can both stem from the thyroid.
The problem with depression is that many other things can also cause it.
It’s hard to know if your depression is caused by your thyroid (5) or by something else unless you treat your thyroid.
Even then, you may find your depression lifts somewhat by treating your thyroid but not all of the way.
Depression, even when treated and managed with medications, still has a cost.
That cost includes the cost of doctor visits, prescription medications, and lost productivity at work.
The hard costs don’t take into account the impact that depression has on quality of life such as experiencing happiness and building meaningful relationships.
It’s hard to put an exact figure on depression but it’s estimated that the economic burden of depression is around $236 billion per year.
It’s hard to know how much of that total cost gets passed down to the individual so I will just leave that value here for now.
What you need to know as a thyroid patient is that depression may be a sign that your thyroid is being undertreated but you will never know until you attempt to optimize your thyroid.
If depression lingers afterward then you know something else is contributing.
#6. The Cost of Decreased Stress Resiliency.
Lastly, we have the cost associated with decreased resiliency to stress.
The thyroid is connected to your adrenal glands which produce cortisol.
And cortisol is the hormone your body produces to help you manage stress.
As thyroid function declines, so too does your ability to tolerate and manage stressful situations due to this connection.
This decrease in stress resiliency can manifest in a number of ways including:
- The symptoms of adrenal fatigue or burnout
- Higher frequency of getting sick (decreased immune function)
- Inability to workout consistently
- Imbalance in other hormones and systems in the body
- Changes to your appetite and food cravings
It’s hard to put a definitive cost on any one of these things but we do know that they most certainly cost something.
How Much Does it Cost to Optimize Your Thyroid?
Now that you understand how much it costs you to not treat your thyroid appropriately, let’s discuss how much it costs to do what it takes to feel better.
Optimizing your thyroid definitely takes a lot of time and money but what you need to understand is the concept of opportunity cost.
Opportunity cost is a way to describe how much you stand to lose by not doing something.
So in the case of not treating your thyroid, the opportunity cost is huge.
We just discussed many of those costs above.
Many thyroid patients probably understand this to some degree but I don’t think they truly understand or they would do everything in their power to get their thyroid back on track.
So how much does it actually take to optimize thyroid function and how does that compare to the costs above?
Optimizing your thyroid may take any or all of the following:
- Finding a competent thyroid doctor – This is probably one of the more difficult parts of optimizing your thyroid and can definitely be expensive. Many thyroid patients assume that seeing their primary care provider or endocrinologist is the best option but that’s typically not the case. Unfortunately, the best doctors to see for thyroid management typically do not accept insurance which means they are more expensive than traditional options. Seeing the right doctor may cost as much as $300 per hour or up to several thousand dollars per year. If you can get away with a doctor that accepts insurance and who also listens to you then great! But don’t waste more than a few months on a doctor that isn’t willing to listen to you, change your thyroid medications, or entertain natural therapies to help you get back to 100%.
- The use of thyroid medications that may not be covered by insurance – Many thyroid patients will need to use combination T4 and T3 thyroid medications to optimize their thyroid. Most thyroid patients are taking levothyroxine because it’s cheap and often covered by insurance but what good is that if it doesn’t help you feel better? Thyroid medications that are likely to help you feel better are often not covered by insurance which means you may have to pay more out of pocket. These medications go by various names and include Natural Desiccated Thyroid formulations, Cytomel, liothyronine, Armour Thyroid, Tirosint, Tirosint-Sol, SR T3, and compounded thyroid medications. Thyroid medication may be required to help you get back to 100% and can cost as much as $200 per month on the high end.
- The use of bio-identical hormones and other non-thyroid prescription medications – Because hypothyroidism impacts other hormone systems in your body you may also need to take other prescription hormones like estrogen, progesterone, and/or testosterone. These come in gels, creams, and injections and may require a prescription from your doctor. The cost for these hormones ranges from $50 per month all the way up to $100 per month depending on your dose and how they are taken.
- Ordering comprehensive lab tests including the complete thyroid lab panel and other hormone panels – One of the reasons thyroid patients fail to get better is because they only ever get their TSH and T4 tested. The complete thyroid lab test panel is necessary to get a more complete picture of thyroid function to help you figure out which thyroid medication is best. Most of the time, the thyroid lab panel is covered by insurance so it shouldn’t cost you much but in the off chance that insurance doesn’t cover it then you may need to spend up to $300 out of pocket each time you get it tested.
- Taking thyroid support supplements – I’m a huge fan of thyroid support supplements and recommend them to all thyroid patients. Thyroid support supplements help your thyroid medication work more effectively and provide your thyroid with other nutrients to help it perform its functions. The cost of thyroid support supplements can vary but may cost anywhere from $100 to $200 per month.
- Changing your diet to healthy whole foods – Don’t expect to feel better unless you learn how to eat healthily. For most thyroid patients this means starting with some type of whole-food based diet. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be expensive but you can expect to add about $1.50 per day to your current grocery bill. That means an extra $550 per year on top of what you are already spending per person (if you are going to eat healthily then just include your whole family).
- Regular exercise and costs associated with that – The costs associated with exercise don’t have to be expensive but they can be depending on what type of exercise you like. If you are someone that likes to do group classes or prefers to work under a trainer then it will be more expensive for you compared to someone that does bodyweight exercises at home while following free youtube videos. You don’t have to get super fancy with your workouts, just make sure that you do them consistently. If you need to spend more for accountability to keep you on track then that may make sense for you. Getting meaningful exercise can be practically free (with home workouts) or be as expensive as $200 or more per month. Do what works for you.
- Spending time and money to reduce exposure to endocrine disruptors – Detoxification is important for proper thyroid function and is something that every thyroid patient should be aware of. You don’t have to go crazy with detox but simple things like drinking filtered water, eating organic foods, getting an air purifier, sweating several times per week, exercising for lymphatic drainage, and ensuring that you have at least one bowel movement per day can make a huge difference. This section can get expensive but there are always cheaper alternatives to get started with. For instance, you don’t need to go out and buy a $2,000 FAR IR sauna in order to sweat (but you can if you’d like) or put a reverse osmosis water system in your house. You can start with a sauna at a local gym or by purchasing pre-filtered water both of which are significantly less expensive than the alternatives mentioned previously. My recommendation here is to start with the cheap options and spend more as you can.
- Improving the quality of your sleep – If you aren’t sleeping 8 hours per night then you will need to spend some time and money in order to improve your sleep. This may mean you need to purchase a new bed, a better pillow, change up the shades or blinds in your room, purchase blue light-blocking glasses, spend more money on energy to keep your room cooler, or even buy products designed to cool off your bed. How much you need to invest in your sleep will depend on the person and can vary in price from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars. No matter what, though, don’t underestimate how important sleep is for your thyroid and overall health! Don’t neglect this step.
- Managing your stress – Another very important aspect of managing your thyroid is managing your stress. The treatments used to manage stress don’t have to be expensive, but they do require time. There are a lot of follow-along meditations that you can find for free on youtube and, sometimes, managing your stress can be as easy as going for a walk at the end of the day in nature. More expensive therapies for managing stress may include things like changing up your job, altering your behavior, or removing toxic relationships from your life. It’s hard to put a precise price on these things so I will avoid giving estimates, but just know that managing your stress is just as important as the other treatments listed here.
Is optimizing your thyroid cheap? Not exactly, but when you compare the cost of not treating your thyroid to the cost of treating it, the numbers make a lot of sense.
You will definitely save more money, live a better life, and avoid a lot of stress by spending time and energy on your thyroid right now.
What about those people who have had thyroid problems for years and years or even decades? Is it too late for them?
It’s never too late to see improvement.
It definitely is more difficult and will require more time and energy to optimize your thyroid the longer you’ve had a thyroid problem but it’s always worth the effort.
Now I want to hear from you:
Do you feel that your thyroid is optimized?
Are you suffering from any lingering symptoms of hypothyroidism despite being treated by your doctor?
Do you feel your thyroid is costing you big either in terms of money or its psychological impact on your well-being?
Were you aware of just how much not optimizing your thyroid could cost you?
Leave your questions or comments below!