Top Three You Should Know About Thyroid Doctors

Finding and working with the right doctor is a crucial part of living well with thyroid disease.

Here are three things to know about thyroid doctors, and what this may mean for your thyroid health.

1. You May Not Have to See an Endocrinologist

The process of deciding what types of practitioners to see for your thyroid diagnosis and care can be complicated and even daunting. In some cases, the initial suspicions of, diagnosis of, or treatment of a thyroid condition may be made by your primary care doctor, internist or family practice physician, who may suggest that you don't need any specialist follow-up. This is not unreasonable, either, as many primary care doctors are experienced and comfortable managing certain thyroid diseases, mostly autoimmune hypothyroidism (Hashimoto's thyroiditis).

Don't be surprised, though, if your doctor refers you to an endocrinologist or even a thyroid surgeon, depending on your symptoms and lab results. You may need to see an endocrinologist just once, or, in the case of Graves' disease or thyroid nodules, multiple times for follow-up. Besides Graves' disease and thyroid nodules, other thyroid conditions that warrant a visit to the endocrinologist include thyroid cancer and having thyroid disease while being pregnant.

2. There is a shortage of endocrinologists in the U.S.

An endocrinologist is a doctor who focuses his or her care on the endocrine system, including the thyroid. Unfortunately, it may be tricky finding an endocrinologist promptly, considering there is a shortage, which can make the wait time to get in long, sometimes months. If this is the case, talk with your primary care physician (PCP) about helping to speed up the referral. You may also consider looking at the thyroid specialist website, provided by the American Thyroid Association, to see if there is another endocrinologist available.

3. It's OK to seek a second opinion or switch doctors

The decision to find a new doctor or reach out for a second opinion can be difficult. Your relationship with a doctor is an intensely personal one, and it's not easy to find the right match, particularly when you may be limited by geography, insurance, or finances.

You may find that you feel a bit intimidated by your physician, or once you are working with a particular doctor, you may feel you don't have the right to switch, or worry that you might offend your doctor. It's key to remember that reaching out for a second opinion and/or switching doctors, whatever your underlying reason is behind it, is perfectly reasonable. Remember, your thyroid health is a major part of your life, so you get to choose who helps manage it.

In the end, you may be surprised to learn that the majority of doctors are not at all offended by you seeking out a second opinion. Sometimes, it is that fresh opinion or new set of eyes that sparks a modified treatment plan. Moreover, doctors want their patients to feel comfortable and trustful of them; so if your doctor-patient relationship is not working out, even if you cannot pinpoint what the problem is exactly, do not be hesitant to reach out to someone else.

A Word from Verywell

With a chronic condition like thyroid disease, the doctor-patient relationship is crucial for the optimization of your thyroid care. Remain proactive in finding the healthcare team that is right for you. Once you have established care with a thyroid doctor, be sure to follow-up as advised, take your medication as directed, ask questions, and seek out knowledge—a healing, compassionate partnership with your thyroid doctor takes time to build, but will be worth it in the end.