Let me begin by saying that blood tests can be very valuable, and they can provide a lot of useful information. It was a blood test that first diagnosed myself as having a hyperthyroid disorder, although I had a pretty good idea it was going to come out positive due to the symptoms I was experiencing.
Still, the blood tests confirmed this, and I do recommend that all of my patients who have hyperthyroid or hypothyroid symptoms receive blood tests (and most have already done so before consulting with me), and I also think it’s a good idea to at least have some basic blood tests done on an annual basis (TSH, CBC, etc.). In fact, a company called Direct Labs (www.directlabs.com) offers a complete wellness profile for $97, which is affordable even for those without health insurance.
However, while information provided by blood tests can be valuable, the truth is that the most common blood tests usually don’t become positive until the condition progresses. This is one of the reasons why someone might be symptomatic, yet have negative findings on a blood test.
Another reason is because there are different reference ranges. For example, the “typical” reference range for most labs for the TSH test is between 0.5 and 4.5. But many doctors are beginning to realize that the upper TSH “normal” range is higher than it should be, as many agree it should be around 3.0. In other words, many people who have a TSH between 3.1 and 4.5 are told that their lab results are “negative”, even if they are symptomatic.
This can be a big problem, as many doctors, even highly competent endocrinologists in some cases, are not paying attention to the symptoms of their patients. They pay too much attention to the blood tests and reference ranges, which don’t always tell the entire story.
This is true even for those people that fall within the range of 0.5 and 3.0, as just because someone falls within this range doesn’t mean they don’t have a hypothyroid issue. Remember that in most cases an autoimmune thyroid condition (or any other “thyroid disorder”) has been present for awhile before the blood tests become positive. This also applies for people with a hyperthyroid condition, such as Graves’ Disease, as someone can have a TSH between 0.5 and 3.0 and still be hyperthyroid.
In addition to paying attention to the symptoms of the patient, it is also a good idea to use various testing methods to diagnose someone. For example, a hair analysis test (performed by a reputable company) can usually detect problems early, well before most blood tests. The problem is that most medical doctors don’t believe such a test is valid, even though research has shown that these tests can be very reliable when done properly.
I’m not going to talk in detail about hair analysis in this post, but I will say that not all hair analysis companies are the same. The same applies with saliva testing, and when conducting a hair analysis or doing saliva testing, if you choose a company that doesn’t conduct these tests properly you obviously can’t rely on the results.
Of course most people with Graves’ Disease or Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis that choose natural treatment methods will consult with a natural endocrine doctor, who in turn will recommend such tests (if they’re necessary in your specific situation). But many healthcare professionals don’t know how to choose a quality company, so just be aware of this.
Getting back to the “main theme” of this post, blood tests can be useful, but if you ever consult with a doctor that relies strictly on your blood test results and doesn’t consider your symptoms, then you probably should change doctors. And by the way, this doesn’t just include medical doctors, but holistic doctors as well. Because some holistic doctors rely too much on blood tests too, although they are more likely to consider the symptoms of the patient.
I think this is common when doctors first begin practicing, as during my first few years of practice, I began seeing a lot of patients with fibromyalgia, and it was common to see a patient with extreme symptoms but who had negative blood test results. But the more patients I saw, the more I realized that just because someone has a negative blood test doesn’t mean they don’t have a serious condition. And this obviously doesn’t just apply to people with fibromyalgia, but autoimmune thyroid disorders as well, as well as with other conditions.
Fortunately, more doctors are realizing that a patient’s symptoms don’t always correlate with their lab findings. But there still are many that do rely too much on blood tests, and if you happen to be a patient of one of these doctors, you might want to consider speaking with someone else who factors in everything. This is true even if you have no intentions of consulting with a natural endocrine doctor, as you should then try to find an endocrinologist or medical doctor that will look at both your symptoms and your lab results.