The Importance of Getting the Right Diagnosis

“We look ‘upstream’ and dig deeper to figure out why symptoms are occurring because we know symptoms are our body’s way of communicating that something is not right.” – Erin Copenhaver, PA

By the time they get to Rhett Women’s Center so many of our patients have have been to multiple different clinicians over years’ time searching for answers. There are often tears in that first visit—some in relief to have finally found a practitioner who listens, understands and wants to help, some in frustration for how long it took for them to find that. So often we hear, “They kept saying all my labs were normal, but I just didn’t feel right”.

The reason thyroid and hormone diagnoses are missed in primary care and even in some gynecologist and endocrinologist’s offices, are multifactorial. Some clinicians are only looking for lab values somewhere in the normal range, not worrying about what is optimal for the body to function well. Some clinicians aren’t even looking for the right labs, or they’re just looking at what we call the “tip of the iceberg”. Some clinicians don’t look for thyroid antibodies because they don’t know or don’t believe there is anything to be done about them even if they’re found. Some clinicians have very little suspicion of hormonal issues in middle-aged or younger women unless there is something glaringly obvious like menstrual issues.

Unfortunately, the fact is that, because of our fast-paced, high stress lives, our Standard American Diet (SAD), the toxins and endocrine-disrupting substances we contact daily the delicate symphony of hormonal balance in the body—for women and men—is often disrupted. The disruption is occurring earlier and earlier in life. The effects are typically subtle for years which is another reason the diagnosis is missed. Often growing fatigue, weight gain or worsening digestion issues are dismissed as a ‘normal part of aging’. Brain fog and cognition issues are written off as a factor of our busy lives—which they most definitely are—but also can be rooted in hormone or even gut imbalance. Our society has taken for granted that our body systems must begin a long decline as we age because, as our healthcare system has grown, its function (or dysfunction?) is to manage the decline. Our society has also taught us that family history is our destiny—that if our mother or sister has diabetes we too will have it or that if our father and grandfather had cardiovascular disease that is our fate.

At Rhett Women’s Center we take a different approach. We look ‘upstream’ and dig deeper to figure out why symptoms are occurring because we know symptoms are our body’s way of communicating that something is not right. We have a higher level of suspicion for imbalances and we’re not waiting until lab values are drastically out of range to do something about it. We’re replacing hormones and nutrients and removing barriers to your body healing itself because IT CAN! There’s no normal long decline that comes with aging. In fact there are areas in the world called “Blue Zones” where whole societies live vibrantly until old age when they experience only minor decline shortly before they die. We know from study of the Blue Zones that lifestyle and nutrition are largely contributory. Additionally, the growing field known as epigenetics teaches us that genes are only 25% of the picture. That means the patient and clinician hold 75% of the power and can determine whether those genes for something like heart disease or cancer express themselves or not. We seek to determine the right diagnosis because we know that being aware of the actual problem is the first step to finding a solution.