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How To Get Your Thyroid Levels Checked

What Is The Thyroid

Thyroid and Infertility! Get Your TSH Level Tested!

Located on the lower part of the front of the neck, the thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that measures two inches in length. For men, the gland is located underneath the Adams apple, near the windpipe.

The thyroid, which is part of the endocrine system, is responsible for the metabolism.

When there are no issues with the thyroid, and its a normal size, it cannot be felt however, when it doesnt work right, it may become enlarged or could grow lumps of extra tissue.

When To Get Your Thyroid Levels Checked

December 22, 2015 by Michael Koeplin, MD

When it acts up, the thyroid gland can cause a whole host of health issues from chronic fatigue, to excessive weight gain. In this article we will discuss when you should have your thyroid levels checked by a physician, and what to do if your levels are too high or too low.

Personal And Family History And Physical Exam

Its important to give your physician as many details as possible about your personal medical history, as well as your family history. Be sure to discuss:

  • Your general state of health particularly any changes you have noticed in your general overall health.

  • Your familys health history especially if a close relative has been diagnosed with hypothyroidism or any other thyroid-related issues.

  • Whether youve ever had thyroid surgery or radiation to your neck to treat cancer.

  • Any medicines you may be taking that could cause hypothyroidism .

In addition to going over your history and medications, your physician will perform a thorough examination to look for physical signs of hypothyroidism, including:

  • Evidence of dry skin

  • Swelling around the eyes and legs

  • Slower reflexes

  • Slower heart rate

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What Are They Symptoms Of An Overactive Thyroid

An overactive thyroid is a condition called Hyperthyroidism and is where the thyroid is overactive and produces too much of the thyroid hormones.

When too much of the T3 and T4 hormones are produced, the following symptoms can occur:

  • Feeling nervous, anxious or irritable
  • Weight loss

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What Is The Role Of The Thyroid Gland

Thyroid Testing and Diagnosis

The thyroid is located at the front of the neck and consists of two lobes, one on each side of the windpipe and adjoined by a small strip of thyroid tissue known as the isthmus. The three hormones produced by the thyroid are:

  • T3
  • T4
  • Calcitonin

T3 and T4 are the active forms of the thyroid hormone, thyroxine, and are involved in the regulation of:

  • The bodys metabolic rate
  • Heart function
  • Bone maintenance

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

Hypothyroidism is evaluated and diagnosed by a physician, usually an endocrinologist or your primary care doctor. The doctor will take into account symptoms, signs, and more critically, blood test results when evaluating the possibility that your thyroid gland is underperforming all of which can help identify both the cause and severity of the disease.

There are several types of hormones checked in a blood test to assess your thyroid status. The most definitive one is the TSH . Often, physicians may also decide to check your level of free or total thyroxine to aid in the diagnosis.

Heres a closer look at the exams and tests doctors use to diagnose hypothyroidism.

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

Knowing When To Check Your Thyroid

  • 1Monitor for symptoms of hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism is the condition where you have an underactive thyroid. All forms of hypothyroidism can be caused by viral infections, radiation damage, some medications, pregnancy, and other rarer causes. Symptoms of an underactive thyroid include:XResearch sourceXTrustworthy SourceMayo ClinicEducational website from one of the world’s leading hospitalsGo to source
  • Severe and constant fatigue
  • Changes in the menstrual cycle
  • Constipation
  • Disturbed sleep cycle, such as wanting to sleep all the time
  • Intolerance to cold
  • Muscle weakness
  • Unexplained weight gain or difficulty losing weight
  • 2Watch for symptoms of hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism is the condition where you have an overactive thyroid. This condition can be a result of Graves disease, tumors, thyroiditis , thyroid nodules, and some medications.XResearch source Symptoms of an overactive thyroid include:XResearch source
  • Rapid heart rate or palpitations
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Frequent and loose bowel movements or diarrhea
  • Fine hair that may be falling out
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Nervousness, irritability, a feeling of high energy
  • Anxiety or panic attacks
  • Reddish skin which may be itchy
  • 3Understand the symptoms may be due to another condition. Remember that many of these symptoms are not specific to thyroid disease. Determine if you have multiple symptoms, or just a few. If you are unsure, go to your physician for tests.XResearch sourceXResearch source
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    Common Causes Of Low T3 Thyroid Hormone

    Hypothyroidism is a common cause of fatigue, anxiety, depression, brain fog, hair loss, weight gain. But what many doctors fail to evaluate are the levels of Reverse T3. High Reverse T3 will cause many low Thyroid symptoms. Dr Hagmeyer here and today we are talking about Low T3, or T3 syndrome or Poor T4 to T3 conversion- you may see many different names given but ultimately this low T3 is a common reason why you suffer with fatigue, depression, weight gain, brain fog, hair loss, bloating, acid reflux and many other symptoms that are associated with low thyroid. Todays video you will learn

    • Reasons why you are a poor T4 to T3 converter and have Low T3 and
    • My favorite tests that can help us understand T4 to T3 conversion.

    You will remember that T4 is the inactive thyroid hormone and T3 is the active thyroid hormone. When you take Synthroid, Levothroxine you are taking T4.

    Some of you watching this video might be thinking, If I am low in T3, cant I just take a T3 replacement hormone or a combination of T4 and T3? While this makes sense on the surface, this approach still fails to address the reason for why you have low T3 in the first place. You can learn how to calculate your T3/rT3 ratio and understand why this ratio is so important here

    Why Does Your Butterfly

    Should You Get Your Hormone Levels Checked?

    Your thyroid is part of your endocrine system, which means that it is a hormone that is made in one part of your body that is then distributed throughout other parts to exert action and effect. It’s also how your body communicates what’s happening from one end to the other, and from one organ to another.

    It’s not as simple as your heart which simply pumps and pushes blood, for example, or the function of your lungs which allow you to breathe. Not to imply that those organs are unimportant or uncomplicated, but they each have a single mechanically recognized function.

    Hormones are so diffuse, and they go throughout your body so widely, that we often don’t recognize or appreciate their functions, because they are not as obvious. Unfortunately, what’s not obvious is also often harder to catch and identify. Your thyroid is the only way your body can control what’s happening in terms of where nutrition needs to go to be converted into energy, where energy needs to go to allow you to do the things you want to do, and to manage healing and recovery after injury or over-exertion.

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    You’re Tired All The Time Or You Can’t Sleep

    Insomnia can have many causes. But if you’re having a hard time sleeping, it could be hyperthyroidism, according to the Mayo Clinic. In addition, Dr. Block said, “I also find racing thoughts before bedtime often accompany hyperthyroidism.” That is something that we might think is psychological, but it can have a physical cause.

    Another symptom to watch out for is fatigue, which can be a symptom of both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. Dr. Ehsan Ali, the physician known as the Beverly Hills Concierge Doctor, told me that fatigue is a big sign you should get your thyroid checked.

    What Imaging Tests Do Doctors Use To Diagnose And Find The Cause Of Thyroid Disease

    Your health care professional may order one or more imaging tests to diagnose and find the cause of thyroid disease. A trained technician usually does these tests in your doctors office, outpatient center, or hospital. A radiologist, a doctor who specializes in medical imaging, reviews the images and sends a report for your health care professional to discuss with you.

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    Thyroid Disease May Be On The Rise

    Nobody is really sure whether thyroid disease is actually becoming more prevalent, but one thing is sure: The number of prescriptions in Canada for a common synthetic thyroid hormone replacement called Synthroid increased by 28 percent between 2005 and 2008. And if indeed the incidence of thyroid disease is dramatically rising in North Americaas M. Sara Rosenthal, author of The Thyroid Sourcebook and director of the bioethics program at the University of Kentucky, arguesthen for researchers the race is on to determine why this small gland in our neck is becoming so vulnerable. Could it simply be that more women are being screened now? One American study, testing people who were visiting a health fair in Colorado, suggests as much: Thyroid dysfunction is common, the researchers concluded, and it may often go undetected.

    Challenges With Thyroid Testing

    How To Test Your Thyroid

    Ive already mentioned triiodothyronine and thyroxine , but in order to understand testing theres one more hormone to be aware of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone .

    TSH is released by the pituitary gland, not the thyroid, so why is it important? Because when things are working properly, the pituitary calculates how much T4 is in the body and then sends a signal to make more as needed. Some doctors just look at TSH to evaluate how the thyroid is doing, but according to some experts theres a problem with that approach.

    Eren Berber, M.D., writes:

    Its important to understand that just because your TSH test comes back normal, it does not rule out the possibility of you being hypothyroid. If your symptoms still point to a hypothyroid diagnosis, your doctor may measure the level of free T4 in your bloodstream.

    Many people who are hypothyroid actually have high levels of TSH and low levels of T4your doctor may refer to this as primary hypothyroidism. This occurs because the pituitary gland has recognized that the thyroid isnt producing enough hormones. As a result, the pituitary releases more TSH in an effort to stimulate the thyroid into producing hormone. But if the thyroid isnt working properly, it wont react to the signals from the pituitary.

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    Should Everyone Be Screened For Hypothyroidism

    Though testing and diagnosis can be life changing in the right circumstances, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force actually does not recommend routine thyroid function screening in healthy, non-pregnant adults.

    Why? If hypothyroidism can have serious health consequences, wouldnt it be great to catch it early in everyone?

    Its true thats what screening tests are designed to do: catch a disease early, sometimes before you even have symptoms. But in some cases, screening tests can actually do more harm than good especially if there isnt a lot of evidence that screening will make a big difference long term. And from the USPSTF point of view, there just isnt enough information to make a good judgement call.

    0.3% of the U.S. population have clinical hypothyroidism.

    Overall, there are no clear-cut benefits to screening healthy, low-risk people for hypothyroidism. This is because there is no evidence that diagnosing hypothyroidism before it causes symptoms has any long-term health benefits. In healthy, non-pregnant adults, hypothyroidism without symptoms is simply not a reliable predictor for future health complications.

    What Do My Thyroid Test Results Mean

    The two most common types of thyroid function tests are the T4 and TSH test. Typically, these two tests are ordered together.

    The T4 testmore commonly known as the thyroxine testis used to determine if your thyroid is overactive. If this is the case, you will be diagnosed with hyperthyroidism.

    Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include unplanned weight loss, tremors, diarrhea and anxiety.

    The TSH test will reveal how much thyroid-stimulating hormone is in your blood. Normal levels range from 0.4 to 4.0 milli-international units of hormone per liter of blood.

    If youve been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism and your TSH levels are above 2.0 mIU/L, you are at a heightened risk of developing hypothyroidism, which can result in weight gain, fatigue, depression and weak hair and nails.

    If your doctor believes you have hyperthyroidism, he or she may order a T3 test to check for levels of the hormone triiodothyronine.

    This hormone level should be within 100-200 nanograms of hormone per deciliter of blood. If your levels are abnormally high, it is possible that you are suffering from an autoimmune disorder called Graves disease.

    The final thyroid function test your doctor may order is the T3 resin uptake test. Also known as a T3RU, this blood test will measure the binding capacity of a hormone called thyroxin-binding globulin.

    Your doctors office should reach out to you within a matter of days to walk you through the results of your thyroid test.

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    When Is A Thyroid Function Test Done

    A thyroid function test is requested in a variety of situations, including if you:

    • have signs or symptoms of an underactive thyroid gland or an overactive thyroid gland
    • have signs of problems with your pituitary gland
    • are taking medicines that can affect your thyroid function, such as amiodarone and lithium
    • are pregnant
    • have infertility problems .

    It is also used to monitor your response if you are taking thyroid medication, such as thyroxine.

    What Is A Thyroid

    How to test your thyroid at home – easy home thyroid testing kit

    Your thyroid is a small gland found at the front of your windpipe . It produces two hormones that help control your metabolism the chemical processes that occur in your body that keep you alive, like breathing and breaking down food into energy. These hormones are called triiodothyronine and thyroxine .

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    Thyroid Function Blood Test

    A GP may arrange for you to have a blood test to check your thyroid hormone levels. This is known as a thyroid function test.

    The test checks the levels of:

    • thyroid-stimulating hormone a hormone produced by the pituitary gland which controls the production of thyroid hormones
    • triiodothyronine one of the main thyroid hormones
    • thyroxine another of the main thyroid hormones

    Your thyroid hormone levels will be compared to what’s normal for a healthy person of your age. A low level of TSH and high levels of T3 and/or T4 usually means you have an overactive thyroid.

    Doctors may refer to these measurements as “free” T3 and T4 .

    What’s considered normal varies depending on things such as your age and the exact testing technique used by the laboratory.

    What You Can Do

    If you have definite symptoms of hypothyroidism, you should talk to your clinician about being tested. If your LDL cholesterol has been advancing or your weight has been creeping up unexplainably, you’ll want to discuss getting a test. If you’re 60 or older and generally healthy, it’s still a good idea to check with your doctor to see whether your medical history suggests you might benefit from testing.

    Image: Thinkstock

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    Timing Thyroid Medications For Optimal Lab Results

    Optimally absorbing your thyroid medication will help to ensure the body is getting adequate thyroid hormone, and may improve results when you do test your labs. However, even if you are getting adequate thyroid hormone and the body is absorbing it, there are factors that may lead to abnormal lab results, and steps you can take that will ensure accuracy.

    The first step to consider is when to take thyroid medications, if you are planning on heading to the lab. The timing of your thyroid medication may affect the accuracy of your thyroid test results, depending on what type of thyroid medication it is.

    The recommendations for timing thyroid meds differ depending on the type of medication you take. Lets dive into the recommendations for each type of medication.

    Is Fasting Required For A Thyroid Test

    How to Support Your Thyroid Naturally!

    Most doctors will suggest you do not fast before your thyroid function test.

    Research shows that fasting, especially early in the morning, may impact TSH levels. A fasting test typically results in higher TSH levels versus one done in the afternoon.

    Because fasting causes higher TSH levels, it can make it hard to properly diagnose hypothyroidismwhich is diagnosed specifically by looking at TSH levels.

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    Can I Take The Test At Home

    At-home thyroid test kits are commercially available without a prescription and measure the same hormones as the traditional thyroid panel.

    For at-home testing, you prick your finger to get the necessary blood sample. That sample is then mailed to a laboratory that conducts the thyroid panel and makes the results available to you directly.

    While at-home testing can measure thyroid levels, it is generally not a substitute for a test ordered by your doctor. If an at-home test detects abnormal thyroid levels, your doctor will likely recommend a new blood sample and thyroid panel to confirm the results. At-home tests for thyroid labs may not be as accurate as tests done in a laboratory.

    Check Your Hormone Levels From The Convenience Of Home

    If youâre concerned about your hormone levels, you can use the information here on how to know if you have a hormonal imbalanceâplus speaking with a healthcare providerâto help inform your next steps.If youâre interested in hormone testing at home, consider the following tests :

    • Womenâs Hormone Test – Lets you learn your levels for 10 key hormones, including estrogen, progesterone, cortisol, and thyroid hormones.
    • Thyroid Test – Check the 3 main thyroid hormones , plus thyroid antibodies.
    • Womenâs Fertility Test – Test your levels for 5 hormones that help support ovarian function and pregnancy.
    • Men’s Health Test – Check your cortisol, DHEA-S, estradiol, and testosterone.

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