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How Do You Get Your Thyroid Checked

How Is The Test Used

How To Do A Thyroid Neck Check Self-Exam

A thyroid panel may be used to evaluate thyroid function and/or help diagnose thyroid disorders.

Typically, the preferred initial test for thyroid disorders is a TSH test. If the TSH level is abnormal, it will usually be followed up with a test for free T4. Sometimes a total T3 or free T3 will also be performed. Often, the laboratory will do this follow-up testing automatically. This is known as reflex testing and it saves the healthcare practitioner time from having to wait for the results of the initial test and then requesting additional testing to confirm or clarify a diagnosis. Reflex tests are typically performed on the original sample that was submitted when the initial test was requested.

As an alternative, a thyroid panel may be requested by your healthcare practitioner. This means that all three tests will be performed at the same time to get a more complete initial picture of thyroid function.

Changes In Menstrual Periods

Because hyperthyroidism tells your body to move faster, the menstrual cycle can become lighter and faster. You may also notice longer periods of time in between your periods.

On their own, these symptoms may indicate other medical problems. However, when you or your doctor identify more than one of these symptoms at a time, there is a good chance its due to thyroid problems.

Thankfully, most thyroid disorders are treatable and are not life-threatening. However, if you notice a rapid heart rate and experience either a fever or deliriousness, you should call your doctor immediately. These are signs of a hyperthyroid complication called thyrotoxic crisis.

Signs You Should Get Your Thyroid Checked

One tiny gland in your body that weighs under one ounce can put you into a world of hurt if it is not working correctly. That would be the thyroid gland. The Mayo Clinic notes that your thyroid “is located at the base of your neck, just below the Adam’s apple.” The gland contains hormones that regulate multiple functions in your body, including your metabolism, heart rate, and body temperature. So if it malfunctions, you can have a variety of health issues.

There are two basic ways your thyroid gland can go awry, according to EndocrineWeb.com: hyperthyroidism, in which the gland produces too much thyroid hormone, and hypothyroidism, in which it produces too little. These disorders can be caused by a variety of issues and are more common in women than in men, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Here are the symptoms you should watch out for that can show that the gland is overactive or underactive.

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Thyroid Health Menstrual Cycle And Bbt

Since women are 75% more likely to have a thyroid problem, we should obviously address the role of menstruation in the BBT reading. If you are menstruating, your temperature will naturally be higher during ovulation as it makes the egg more fertile. This increase in temperature will skew the results.

For this reason, menstruating women should not take the test during ovulation but instead should begin on the 2nd day of menstruation and should never get closer to 4 days pre-ovulation for accurate readings.

The Most Common Signs Of A Thyroid Disorder

How To Check If You Have Thyroid Problems At Home

There are two main reasons you and your doctor might want to start monitoring your thyroid. First, any family history of thyroid conditions, such as thyroid nodules, means you should keep an eye on yours as well. Additionally, it might be wise to do an exam if youre feeling an array of confusing symptoms where you just cant pinpoint the exact problem.

Fatigue, feeling cold or hot all the time, hair loss, sudden weight gain or loss, palpitations, diarrhea, or issues with your menstrual cycle can all signal a thyroid issue, said Sun Lee, an assistant professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine, endocrinologist at Boston Medical Center, and member of the American Thyroid Association. The two main classifications of thyroid problems are hypothyroidism, where the gland is underactive, or hyperthyroidism, where its overactive. However, there can be other issues as well.

People often dont think they have a thyroid issue because the symptoms are thought of as synonymous with aging, said Cheryl Rosenfeld, managing partner of North Jersey Endocrine Consultants in Denville, New Jersey, and a member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinology.

Many people pass off fatigue, weakness, loss of memory, dry skin or hair loss as expected effects of getting older, Rosenfeld said. However, it is important to rule out thyroid disease as a cause of these symptoms first.

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You Have Gastrointestinal Issues

If you have such issues, it may be assumed that something is wrong with your digestive system. But the thyroid may also cause gastrointestinal problems. Dr. Block told me that bowel changes are one of the symptoms of a malfunctioning thyroid. Specifically, the Mayo Clinic describes one of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism as “changes in bowel patterns, especially more frequent bowel movements,” while constipation can be a symptom of hypothyroidism.

Women’s health expert Carolyn Dean, MD, ND told me, “Slow metabolism leads to slow bowel movement.”

Diagnosis Of An Underactive Thyroid Function Is Made Based On A Combination Of Thyroid Blood Test Results Symptoms And Several Other Factors

Hypothyroidism is evaluated and diagnosed by a physician, usually an endocrinologist or your primary care doctor. Symptoms, signs, and more critically, blood testsare taken into consideration when evaluating the possibility of an underactive thyroid glandall of which help identify the cause and severity of the disease.

A diagnosis is reached after a thorough review of the patients personal medical and family histories, any risk factors, findings on physical examination, in addition to the results of thyroid function levels. There are several types of hormones checked in a blood test to assess your thyroid statusthe most definitive one is the TSH . Often, physicians may decide to check the free thyroxine, or T4, free T4 index, or total T4 to aid in the diagnosis.

Your doctor may check your thyroid status for an underactive thyroid by reviewing thyroid hormone levels. Photo: 123rf

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Is There Anything Else I Should Know

In the past, panels of tests were more common. More recently, however, the practice has been to order, where possible, one initial or screening test and then follow up with additional testing, if needed, to reduce the number of unnecessary tests. With thyroid testing, one strategy is to screen with a TSH test and then order additional tests if the results are abnormal or if clinical suspicions warrant.

Your thyroid hormone test results can be affected by:

  • Increases, decreases, and changes in the proteins that bind T4 and T3
  • Pregnancy

Take A Sip And Take A Look

How To Check Your Thyroid

Take a sip of water and tilt your head back with your chin up, and keep an eye on your throat and neck as you swallow.

You may need to do this several times to get a good look at your neck as you swallowkeeping your chin up and your eyes down on the mirror can be a bit tricky at first.

Watch the thyroid area as you swallow, looking for any bulges near the area where your thyroid gland would be. Is the area symmetrical as you swallow, or is there a difference between the sides.

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Signs You Need To Get Your Thyroid Checked Right Away

Most of us have heard about our thyroid gland in some capacity. Thyroid conversations tend to take place when conversations ensue as to why we can’t kick those extra few pounds, to those discussing why our internal thermostat seems all over the place. Indeed, our thyroid gland is involved with these processes, but do you know what else your thyroid does? In fact, the thyroid is one of the most essential glands to regulate overall healthy, AND it is one of the most easily damaged by toxins, nutrient deficiencies, and stress. If you are living and breathing on this planet, these factors affect us every day!

Quick thyroid 101… This butterfly-shaped gland found in our neck behind the thyroid cartilage, commonly known as our ‘Adam’s apple’. The thyroid takes orders primarily from the pituitary gland to produce thyroid hormones T3 and T4 . It is T4 that is found in the highest quantity , and acts as the primary thyroid hormone having a profound impact on our metabolism. However, merely measuring just these hormones will only provide PART of the answer…

TSH

Free T3 and Free T4

Anti-TPO

Micronutrient analysis

Basal Body Temperature

I see a lot of patients with thyroid conditions in my practice, and many of which have not been diagnosed previously. Blood testing aside for a moment, there are many clues your thyroid gland may not be functioning at an optimal level.

1. Fatigue

2. Digestion problems

3. Skin/hair problems

4. Depression/anxiety

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Why Not Check Thyroid Hormones Directly

Why not check the thyroid hormones themselves, to see if the gland is not functioning properly?

The thyroid only makes small amounts of T3. Even in cases of severe hypothyroidism, T3 levels dont go down that much. T4 is produced in large quantities by the thyroid. However, TSH is a far superior screening test because small changes in T4 cause large TSH spikes. Usually when a person has hypothyroidism, TSH levels become very high way before T4 levels fall below normal. So, in our analogy, the thermostat is very sensitive to small variations in temperature.

Thats why a normal TSH almost always means the thyroid gland is healthy and producing enough thyroid hormones. Research finds that a simple TSH test is enough to identify hypothyroidism in 99.6% of the tests performed.

You may have heard of expanded or full thyroid panels, which often include tests for TSH, total T3, total T4, free T3, free T4, anti-TPO antibodies, thyroglobulin, and reverse T3. There is no evidence these extra tests help to diagnose and manage thyroid disease, although they definitely add to health care costs. Proponents of expanded thyroid analysis believe more data may support a personalized intervention plan. However, what happens in a lab test often fails to mirror the elaborate dance of hormones in the body. Additionally, findings are highly variable. What happens in your body today may change in a matter of days or weeks, even without significant interventions.

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Whats Included In A Thyroid Function Test

A thyroid function test will usually measure your levels of:

  • T4
  • T3
  • TSH

A more advanced test will also test for the presence of any thyroid antibodies that could be causing an autoimmune disease. This might check your levels of:

  • thyroid peroxidase
  • thyroglobulin antibodies
  • TSH receptor antibodies

Its important to note that the presence of these antibodies in your blood doesnt automatically mean you have an autoimmune thyroid disease but it can indicate an increased risk of developing one in the future.

Some vitamins and minerals are essential for your thyroid to function properly like vitamin D, vitamin B12, folate , and iron. A nutrient deficiency can sometimes mimic the symptoms of a thyroid disorder. If possible, its a good idea to test your thyroid hormones and these nutrients as well.

Why Having A Correctly Working Thyroid Matters

How to Test Your Thyroid Function at Home

Since the thyroid regulates so much of our body, it is important to have it working correctly to have optimum health. Dr. Goldfarb told me that when it comes to your thyroid, some “mild thyroid conditions that are not treated for many years can affect your heart, bones, and other organ systems,” but that there are also “very mild abnormalities” that “may go unnoticed and don’t necessarily need to be treated.” She stressed that “symptoms that are caused by very abnormal thyroid hormones can also affect things like your energy level and productivity, which impacts your general health.”

In addition, “for women trying to get pregnant, having your thyroid hormones in normal range is important,” the physician said.

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Getting Your Thyroid Checked Can Be A New Beginning

If you have some of the symptoms listed, and you just don’t feel right, you might want to talk to your physician about it and have your thyroid checked. If your thyroid is the issue, there are a variety of treatments out there that can potentially improve your health and quality of life. It does get better.

Testing Your Hormone Levels

To determine if you have an issue with your thyroid, a doctor will order a simple blood test measuring TSH, which should fall between .4 and 4.0 milli-international units per liter .

James Hennessey, M.D., director of clinical endocrinology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, notes that studies indicate that higher levels of TSH can be normal as we age.

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To get the most accurate results from the blood test, experts recommend that you give your doctor a complete list of all medications you take, including vitamins and supplements, which can influence both test results and thyroid function. Supplements that claim to naturally boost metabolism can be especially problematic, as they often contain bovine thyroid tissue, which may contain hormones that disrupt your own thyroid function.

Eating large amounts of soybean products, walnuts, cottonseed meal, kelp or seaweed as well as taking supplements with iodine, calcium or iron can also cause problems with thyroid function and blood test accuracy. Consuming excessive amounts of sushi or tofu can skew test results, too. And, Singer says, if you take or use biotin products , these should be discontinued several days before testing. For the most precise results, experts also advise that you have your blood drawn in the morning before eating or drinking anything.

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If An Underactive Thyroid Isn’t Treated

It’s unlikely that you’d have many of the later symptoms of an underactive thyroid, because the condition is often identified before more serious symptoms appear.

Later symptoms of an underactive thyroid include:

  • a low-pitched and hoarse voice
  • a puffy-looking face
  • thinned or partly missing eyebrows
  • a slow heart rate
  • anaemia

Difficulty Swallowing Can Also Be A Symptom Of Thyroid Cancer

How to test your Thyroid at home

Unfortunately, difficulty swallowing can also be a symptom of thyroid cancer, according to Beatty. But “dysphagia is more likely to be a late symptom of the disease rather than an early symptom,” he adds. The presenting symptoms of thyroid cancer will more likely appear as a solitary nodule or swelling in the neck around the thyroid gland. Other symptoms you could experience as thyroid cancer progresses include a cough, hoarseness, and pain in the throat and neck, per Healthline. And for more useful health information delivered straight to your inbox,

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How Do Thyroid Tests Work

Thyroid tests use blood samples to check the levels of TSH and T4. If there are any concerning results, more detailed testing can be done, including checking for T3 levels.

If your levels are too high or low, you may also need an ultrasound to view the structure of your thyroid, since tumors on the thyroid gland can cause symptoms that are similar to hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. You may need to go on daily medication to regulate your levels.

Food and Drug Administration , home test kits, in general, are a suitable way to receive quick and confidential lab results. Theyre not a substitute for receiving regular care from a healthcare professional. A thyroid blood test is only one part of receiving a diagnosis, and for some people, more testing or clinical exams might be necessary.

Some endocrinologists, or doctors who specialize in hormone-related conditions like thyroid disorders, have concerns about the reliability of thyroid kits and the potential for misdiagnosis. But this is why its still important to inform your healthcare professional of these results.

What Are Early Warning Signs Of Thyroid Problems

Your thyroid is a small gland that produces hormones. Under some circumstances, this gland may begin to produce too many thyroid hormones. This issue is called hyperthyroidism. In contrast, this gland will produce an insufficient amount of hormones if you develop hypothyroidism. There are several early warning signs that may indicate that you have developed one of these thyroid issues.

If you are experiencing these problems, you should schedule a thyroid test at our office in Louisville. After we diagnose your problem, we can recommend medications and other treatments that will relieve your symptoms and enhance your health.

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How Much Does The Test Cost

The cost of a thyroid panel depends on your insurance coverage and where the test is performed. If ordered by a doctor, insurance normally covers a thyroid panel except for any patient cost-sharing such as copays or deductibles. Check with your health plan and health care provider for specific cost details.

At-home thyroid tests usually cost less than $150, which includes the cost of shipping your blood sample to the lab.

Can I Check My Thyroid At Home

7 Signs of an Underactive Thyroid

You can do a quick and easy self-exam of your thyroid at home. The only tools you need to do this self-exam are a mirror and a glass of water.

To do the thyroid self-exam, follow these steps:

  • Start by identifying where your thyroid is located. Generally, youll find the thyroid on the front of your neck, between your collar bone and Adams apple. In men, the Adams apple is much easier to see. For women, its usually easiest to look from the collar bone up.
  • Tip your head back while looking in a mirror. Look at your neck and try to hone in on the space you will be looking once you start the exam.
  • Once youre ready, take a drink of water while your head is tilted back. Watch your thyroid as you swallow. During this test, youre looking for lumps or bumps. You may be able to see them when you swallow the water.

Repeat this test a few times to get a good look at your thyroid. If you see any lumps or bumps, reach out to your healthcare provider.

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