Massive Results from an Online Thyroid Survey
If you were asked to rate your satisfaction with your thyroid treatment on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the best and 1 being the worst, where would you fall?
Depending on how you answer, you may or may not be surprised at where roughly 12,000 thyroid patients put themselves on that scale.
In an online survey of over 12,000 thyroid patients on thyroid medication, the average satisfaction of thyroid patients was a 5 out of 10.
That's 50% if we were giving thyroid management a grade! In other words, a failure or an "F".
If you are new here then this number may surprise you, but if you've been around for a while you probably aren't surprised at all.
Today we are going to break down this survey and help you understand why thyroid patients are so unsatisfied with their current treatment.
We will also talk about this online survey, what information you should take away from it, and what steps you should take going forward.
By the way, if you want to see the study in its entirety you can find it here (1).
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Patients Give Doctors a "5 out of 10" for Satisfaction + Major Takeaways
As a thyroid patient, you should be aware of the struggles that both YOU and your fellow thyroid patients suffer from.
I'm always amazed to find that so many thyroid patients feel that they are alone in how they feel or that they are made to feel crazy by their doctor when they report feeling unwell.
The good news is that you are NOT alone and that 12,000 other thyroid patients probably are experiencing something similar to you.
The bad news is that this is a very real problem and one that must be addressed.
This survey is a step in the right direction simply because it brings awareness to the problem that many have known existed for quite some time.
But it doesn't excuse the lack of treatment that thyroid patients face.
While it is important that most thyroid patients feel dissatisfied with their current treatment, there is also a lot of additional information we can glean from this online survey.
Here are a couple of very important hot takes from this survey of 12,000 people:
- 62% of people who responded to the survey were taking T4 only thyroid medications like levothyroxine and Synthroid.
- 41% of respondents have been receiving thyroid treatment for 10 years or MORE
- 43% of respondents suffer from hypothyroidism from Hashimoto's thyroiditis (the #1 cause of hypothyroidism in most developed countries)
- The overall satisfaction among thyroid patients receiving treatment for their hypothyroidism is 5 out of 10
- 69% of respondents suffer from weight management issues (which is a major cause of their dissatisfaction)
- 77% of respondents suffer from fatigue or low energy (which is a major cause of their dissatisfaction)
- Thyroid patients rate the need for new thyroid therapies as a 10 out of 10 (more information on why this is wrong below!)
The most staggering statistic up there is the fact that 41% of thyroid patients have been experiencing their symptoms for 10 years or MORE!
This is an unacceptable number because there are absolutely better treatments available which can help ease the symptoms of hypothyroidism dramatically.
And these are therapies and medications that YOU as a thyroid patient will need to be aware of because you can't count on your doctor to know them.
A Clear Preference for Natural Desiccated Thyroid Medication Shows Up... Again
This isn't the first study to come out showing the dissatisfaction of thyroid patients with their treatment and it certainly won't be the last.
I've written about the last one which you can read about here if you want to see that this isn't an isolated event.
But here I want to break down a finding which seems to emerge in each of these surveys.
In this survey, and in other surveys, there seems to be a distinct and obvious preference among thyroid patients for the type of treatment that they receive.
I already mentioned that the average satisfaction among thyroid patients receiving thyroid treatment is 5 out of 10 but I didn't break that down by type of therapy.
It turns out that the 5 out of 10 satisfaction score was for patients who were taking T4 only thyroid medications such as levothyroxine and Synthroid.
But what happens when we separate those people from patients taking other types of thyroid medications?
We get some different results:
- Patients taking NDT formulations (29% of the people who responded) had a satisfaction rate of 7 out of 10.
- Patients taking T4 and T3 combinations had a satisfaction score of 6 out of 10.
- Patients taking NDT were less likely to report problems with weight, energy levels, mood, and memory compared to those on T4 only medications.
Why is this surprising?
Well, for a couple of reasons that you should be aware of.
The first is that the problem with thyroid management is not that we don't have the right treatments, it's just that doctors are providing the wrong medication.
The second is that doctors have a clear preference for using medications that don't work as well as others and that they either aren't willing to prescribe different medications or they are ignoring the symptoms that thyroid patients present with.
Both reasons are equally disturbing and they are things that you should be aware of.
Another important takeaway is that patients who use any thyroid medication which contains the active thyroid hormone T3 have a greater satisfaction than those not on T3.
T3, for those that don't know, is the most powerful thyroid hormone in your body and it is available as a prescription medication for thyroid patients.
But despite its availability, doctors rarely ever prescribe it.
Many people might read the results of this study and conclude that Natural Desiccated Thyroid is the best thyroid medication available but I think that misses the mark.
While NDT formulations are great for thyroid patients, you can still get amazing results using any form of T3 medication.
After one or two studies (2) you can say that it's just coincidence that patients prefer medications such as NDT over levothyroxine and Synthroid.
But when you start to see the studies which show this number 5+, it starts to become a trend that you can't ignore.
As a thyroid patient, you should be aware that you have A LOT to gain by switching to a thyroid medication which contains T3 in it!
You can do this by either adding T3 medications to your existing T4 dose or by simply switching to a formulation of Natural Desiccated Thyroid hormone.
Problems with the Study
This is definitely a study that you will want to bookmark and hang on to as ammunition that you can bring to your doctor if necessary but you should also be aware of some of its flaws.
Every study has some flaws which means that they aren't perfect, but just because they are imperfect doesn't mean that their information is useless.
You should be aware of these flaws just in case you get any push back from your doctor when you show him/her the results.
Problems with the study include:
- It is an online survey/study - Online surveys are not as regulated as other forms of acquiring information (such as blood tests) so they are not often taken as seriously. But they do function to get researchers interested in topics and to help guide further and future research.
- More women than men were included compared to the regular thyroid population - Roughly 80% of all thyroid patients are women but, in this study, women represented 96% of all respondents. What this means is that the survey results are not a perfect representation of the thyroid population as a whole but they can definitely be used as a close mirror of what is happening to most WOMEN who have thyroid conditions.
- More people in the survey were using NDT compared to the regular thyroid population - The results found that approximately 29% of those people who responded to this survey were using NDT formulations (natural desiccated thyroid) as their thyroid medication. This is much higher than the regular thyroid population in which less than 10% of all thyroid patients use NDT instead of levothyroxine/Synthroid.
- The results/finding were self reported - Usually, when it comes to studies, doctors like to look at objective results/findings. For instance, it's often better to look at something measurable such as your body weight or BMI if you want to know if people are losing weight. Subjective findings such as "how are you feeling" are really hard to measure and vary from person to person. So, it could be argued that 100 people could all have different answers for how "satisfied" they are with their thyroid treatment depending on what is important to them. One person's dissatisfaction could be another person's sanctification, so to speak. This doesn't negate the findings but it should be taken into account.
But here's the rub:
Even though the study wasn't perfect it doesn't mean that the results would be any more favorable if the problems above were tweaked/fixed.
For instance, consider a few of these examples.
The first is the idea that the study wasn't a representation of the general thyroid population because it included a high percentage of women.
This is important because women tend to suffer from more severe thyroid symptoms compared to men, even with comparable lab tests.
Men have a higher density of T3 receptors on their cells which means they can tolerate a lower level of thyroid hormone compared to women.
So this study, while it contains more women than men, is probably more reflective of the satisfaction of WOMEN who have thyroid disease (and not both genders).
Another important point is the percentage of people who were already using NDT thyroid medication in the study.
The total number of thyroid patients using NDT in the general thyroid population is less than 10% while the number of people using NDT formulations in this study was 29%.
I believe that the reason we see a higher percentage of people using NDT has to do with the fact that these patients are savvier than the average thyroid patient, have probably spent more time on online blogs, and are more aware of the types of therapies available to thyroid patients.
These patients would naturally be more inclined to fill out a survey or even be aware that a survey for thyroid patients was taking place.
If you consider that NDT is superior in terms of how it impacts the body with thyroid medication AND that a higher percentage of people surveyed here were on this type of medication, we can assume that the satisfaction among thyroid patients, in general, is probably much lower than the 5 out of 10 reported.
Again, these are not huge problems with the study but they do mean that the results are probably not 100% reflective of the general thyroid population as a whole (though I do believe it is fairly close).
What it means for You
Here's the biggest problem with the study, from the perspective of thyroid patients:
Thyroid patients wrongly believe that the problem with how they are feeling is due to the fact that there aren't enough ways to treat hypothyroidism.
These patients said that they believe that new treatments are needed so that they can feel better.
But there's one big problem with this statement:
The problem isn't with the treatments but with the DOCTORS!
The doctors are the ones who are not providing you with the right treatment even though they ALREADY EXISTS.
There are no fewer than 4 different types of thyroid medications:
- T4 only thyroid medications
- NDT thyroid medications
- T3 only thyroid medications
- Customized and compounded T4 + T3 medications
But guess which therapy that doctors use almost exclusively?
Only medications from the first group of T4 only thyroid medication which includes medications such as levothyroxine and Synthroid.
When was the last time that your doctor recommended any of the following thyroid medications?
- Armour thyroid
- NP thyroid
- WP thyroid
- Sustained Release T3
All of these medications already exist and can be used safely by thyroid patients.
The problem is not that they don't exist but that your doctor either doesn't know that they exist or isn't willing to prescribe them!
We can't blame the problem of patient dissatisfaction on a lack of thyroid therapies until doctors are actually ready to start using the other therapies and medications that already exist.
And, by the way, these therapies are far better than the standard levothyroxine/Synthroid medications that your doctor wants to give you.
The medications listed above are often much cleaner (meaning they have fewer ingredients) and many contain the active thyroid hormone T3.
This survey is just another in a growing list of online surveys and studies which show one important thing:
Doctors are consistently failing thyroid patients.
Despite taking their treatments faithfully, thyroid patients continue to experience symptoms such as fatigue, weight gain, hair loss, and mood problems.
And these symptoms ALL correlate with symptoms found in a hypothyroid state (meaning they should go away if these patients were properly treated).
Thyroid patients have been getting ignored for decades but there is a growing body of literature which is showing that the current thyroid treatment paradigm must change soon.
The main reason I have this website and blog is to try and encourage this change to happen sooner rather than later.
I have case studies and hundreds of articles which outline how thyroid cases are being mismanaged and what you can do as a patient to feel better.
Help me get this message out by sharing this post so more thyroid patients can see it.
And now I want to hear from you:
How would you rate your current satisfaction a scale of 1 to 10?
What type of thyroid medication are you currently using?
Do you agree with the results of the study? Why or why not?
Do you believe that we need new thyroid medications/therapies?
Leave your comments or questions below!
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