How To Check Your Thyroid
This article was medically reviewed by Ricardo Correa, MD. Dr. Correa is a board certified Endocrinologist. Dr. Correa is the Program Director of the Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism Fellowship at the University of Arizona College of Medicine and was a previous Assistant Professor of Medicine at Brown University. He completed his MD at the University of Panama and completed an internal medicine residency at the Jackson Memorial Hospital – University of Miami. He has been voted one of the 40 Under 40 Leaders in Health by the National Minority Quality Forum in 2019.There are 12 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 40,747 times.
The thyroid gland is located at the base of your neck. It is a very important gland that produces a hormone that helps regulate your entire bodys metabolism, temperature, heart rate, growth, and development.XResearch source The thyroid gland can be functionally underactive or overactive. The thyroid can be enlarged, have benign nodules and, more rarely, malignant nodules.
When Tsh Alone Is Not Enough
During diagnosis, most doctors use the TSH test to evaluate thyroid function and determine the optimal course of treatment. There are times, however, when knowing one’s TSH may be insufficient.
For instance, free T4 in addition to TSH is usually tested if a doctor suspects thyroid dysfunction due to disease of the pituitary gland or hypothalamus.
Likewise, if the TSH is normal, but a person still has symptoms of being hyperthyroid or hypothyroid, free T4 may be checked.
TSH is also not necessarily sufficient to monitor hypothyroidism during pregnancy T4 and free T4 are often recommended.
Undetected Low Levels Of Thyroid Hormone May Underlie Subtle Changes That Can Increase Your Risk Of Cardiovascular Disease
For a gland only two inches in size, the thyroid has a huge influence on our health. It produces a hormone that is carried in the bloodstream to all parts of the body. Thyroid hormone plays a major role in regulating metabolismthe process by which body cells convert nutrients into energyand thereby helps regulate body temperature, , and even brain function. So when thyroid hormone levels fall, the body slows.
You’re probably aware of the common symptoms of low thyroid hormonefatigue, fuzzy-headedness, weight gain, cold hands, and dry skin. But if you’re like most of us, you’re likely to blame your diet and exercise regimen instead of your thyroid if your cholesterol levels and weight are creeping up, especially if you don’t have any of the other symptoms of low thyroid. “Symptoms are often nonspecific, and since women over 60 generally have more of these nonspecific symptoms, their doctors may not think to test for hypothyroidism,” says endocrinologist Dr. Jeffrey Garber, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and author of The Harvard Medical School Guide to Overcoming Thyroid Problems.
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Side Effects And Aftercare
A blood draw is a routine, minimally invasive procedure. During the days immediately after the blood draw, you may notice slight bruising or soreness at the area where the needle was inserted. An ice pack or an over-the-counter pain reliever can help ease your discomfort.
If you experience a great deal of pain, or if the area around the puncture becomes red and swollen, follow up with your doctor immediately. These could be signs of an infection.
Lab Tests Of Biopsy Samples
In some cases, doctors might use molecular tests to look for specific gene changes in the cancer cells. This might be done for different reasons:
- If FNA biopsy results arent clear, the doctor might order lab tests on the samples to see if there are changes in the BRAF or RET/PTC genes. Finding one of these changes makes thyroid cancer much more likely.
- For some types of thyroid cancer, molecular tests might be done to see if the cancer cells have changes in certain genes , which could mean that certain targeted drugs might be helpful in treating the cancer.
These tests can be done on tissue taken during a biopsy or surgery for thyroid cancer. If the biopsy sample is too small and all the molecular tests cant be done, the testing may also be done on blood that is taken from a vein, just like a regular blood draw.
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Ordering Your Own Thyroid Blood Tests
You may not be aware, but in most states in the U.S., and some areas outside the U.S., you can order and pay for your own thyroid tests. Some people use this approach to get testing done before seeing a doctor.
It may be more affordable to have your tests done through your doctor, however. Sometimes, your HMO or insurance may limit the tests your doctor can request.
What Should I Take Care Of After Getting Tested For Thyroid Hormones
Once the blood sample for thyroid test is drawn, you can return to normal activities, including driving. A simple thing that you can follow is to avoid strenuous activity with the arm from where the sample was taken for a few hours after the test. If you experience any pain or bleeding, apply ice packs
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What Are Thyroid Nodules
Thyroid nodules are small bumps that can form inside the thyroid gland. Approximately 90% of thyroid nodules are non-cancerous however, in some cases, these nodules may suggest the presence of thyroid cancer. Also, thyroid nodules can sometimes alter thyroid hormone levels, resulting in either hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.
Women are about 4 times more likely than men to have thyroid nodules. And older age, a history of thyroid radiation, and iron deficiency are all linked with a greater likelihood of having thyroid nodules.
What Is Being Tested
A thyroid panel is a group of tests that may be ordered together to help evaluate thyroid gland function and to help diagnose thyroid disorders. The tests included in a thyroid panel measure the level of thyroid hormones in the blood.
A thyroid panel usually includes tests for:
Although rarely used these days, sometimes a T3 resin uptake test is included. T3RU and T4 can be used to calculate a free thyroxine index . This is another method for evaluating thyroid function. It corrects for changes in certain proteins that can affect total T4 levels.
The thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped organ that lies flat across the windpipe at the base of the neck that produces thyroid hormones, primarily T4 and some T3. These hormones travel throughout the body and regulate the metabolism by telling the cells in the body how fast to use energy and produce proteins. Most of the hormone produced by the thyroid is T4. This hormone is relatively inactive, but it is converted into the much more active T3 in the liver and other tissues.
Almost all of the T3 and T4 circulating in the blood is bound to protein. The small portions that are not bound are called “free” and are the biologically active forms of the hormones. Lab tests can measure the amount of free T3 or free T4 or the total T3 or total T4 in the blood.
The body has an elaborate feedback system to control the amount of T4 and T3 in the blood.
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What Are Thyroid Blood Tests
Doctors use blood tests to check for thyroid or pituitary problems. In kids already diagnosed with thyroid or pituitary problems, the tests are used to guide treatment.
Commonly ordered thyroid blood tests include:
- T4 test: This is done to measure the blood level of the hormone T4 . It might be done in one or both of the following ways:
- total T4, which measures the entire amount of thyroxine in the blood, including the amount attached to blood proteins that help carry the hormone through the bloodstream
- free T4, which measures only the thyroxine that’s not attached to proteins. This is the part of T4 in the blood that affects how the body’s cells work.The results of the T4 blood tests can help diagnose hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism and guide treatment.
In some cases, abnormal thyroid test results can be due to a medicine, an ongoing medical condition, or pregnancy. In these cases, there may be nothing wrong with the thyroid or pituitary glands themselves.
Now The Blood Sample Analyzed For The Following Tests
The T3 test, done to check the level of one more essential thyroid hormone, called as triiodothyronine. Thyroid T3 tests are imperative to finish up hyperthyroidism or to judge the seriousness of the hyperthyroidism. T3 testing, viewed as vital in the hypothyroid tolerant because it differentiates clearly. In some conditions, like in the midst of pregnancy or while taking anti-pregnancy pills, lifted measures of total T4 and T3 can exist. This is in light of the fact that the estrogens increase the level of the coupling proteins. In such conditions, it is perfect to approach both for TSH and T4 for better thyroid evaluation.
The best way to deal with the thyroid limit is to check the TSH level in thyroid test. The low level indicates that there is an overproduction of thyroid hormones while a larger amount of TSH in thyroid test shows that there is a shortcoming of thyroid hormones . TSH test, prescribed to know the level of generation of TSH .
This test demonstrates thyroid failure or doubt of an autoimmune thyroid. The essential antibodies are thyroid peroxides antibodies , thyroglobulin antibodies and thyroid animating hormone receptor antibodies. The standard reference goes for thyroid antibodies isnt conceivable as it relies on the extensive variety of components.
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What Is A Tsh Test
TSH stands for thyroid stimulating hormone. A TSH test is a blood test that measures this hormone. The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located near your throat. Your thyroid makes hormones that regulate the way your body uses energy. It also plays an important role in regulating your weight, body temperature, muscle strength, and even your mood. TSH is made in a gland in the brain called the pituitary. When thyroid levels in your body are low, the pituitary gland makes more TSH. When thyroid levels are high, the pituitary gland makes less TSH. TSH levels that are too high or too low can indicate your thyroid isn’t working correctly.
Other names: thyrotropin test
How Does The Thyroid Gland Function
The major thyroid hormone secreted by the thyroid gland is thyroxine, also called T4 because it contains four iodine atoms. To exert its effects, T4 is converted to triiodothyronine by the removal of an iodine atom. This occurs mainly in the liver and in certain tissues where T3 acts, such as in the brain. The amount of T4 produced by the thyroid gland is controlled by another hormone, which is made in the pituitary gland located at the base of the brain, called thyroid stimulating hormone . The amount of TSH that the pituitary sends into the bloodstream depends on the amount of T4 that the pituitary sees. If the pituitary sees very little T4, then it produces more TSH to tell the thyroid gland to produce more T4. Once the T4 in the bloodstream goes above a certain level, the pituitarys production of TSH is shut off. In fact, the thyroid and pituitary act in many ways like a heater and a thermostat. When the heater is off and it becomes cold, the thermostat reads the temperature and turns on the heater. When the heat rises to an appropriate level, the thermostat senses this and turns off the heater. Thus, the thyroid and the pituitary, like a heater and thermostat, turn on and off. This is illustrated in the figure below.
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In People Being Treated For Thyroid Disease
A high TSH may be found in people being treated for either hypo- or hyperthyroidism.
With hypothyroidism, a high TSH usually means that the dose of thyroid hormone replacement needs to be increased.
In some cases, however, the dose is OK, but the medication is not being fully absorbed. For example, many foods and medications can affect the absorption of Synthroid in your system. Learning what to avoid while taking this medication is important for it to work properly.
With hyperthyroidism, a high TSH usually means that the treatmentbe it surgery, radioactive iodine, or medicationswas so effective in limiting the production of thyroid hormone it caused the person to become hypothyroid.
Order Your Own Thyroid Screenings With My Lab Request
Thyroid disease is a condition in which your body produces too much or too little of the thyroid hormone that you need to support your bodily functions. Though anyone can develop thyroid disease, youre five times more likely to develop the disease if youre a woman. Everyone, especially women, can suffer complications from thyroid disease if it is left untreated. Diagnosing and monitoring thyroid disease with lab testing can help you to develop an initial treatment plan with your doctor or better evaluate the success of your current treatment. Depending on whether your thyroid is under- or overactive, you may experience different symptoms of thyroid disease. If your thyroid is underactive, you may experience weight gain, fatigue, dry skin or hair, and other symptoms. If your thyroid is overactive, you may experience symptoms such as weight loss, rapid heart rate, anxiety, and other symptoms. Still, in certain cases, you may not experience any symptoms of thyroid disease. As part of our My Lab ReQuest service, Sonora Quest Laboratories allows you to order your own lab tests to check the health of your thyroid. Take charge of your health and order the testing you need to make more educated decisions regarding the management of your health. Schedule your appointment, access your test results, and pay for your screening all online. To learn more about our thyroid screenings, view the list below of our current selection of available screenings.
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Supporting A Healthy Thyroid
Now that you have a basic overview of thyroid function, you may be wondering if there are ways to support your thyroid health in addition to medication. This is important because sometimes it can take a while before medication can correct hormone imbalance. In this case, the next best thing you can do is adjust your lifestyle habits.Managing stress: Because there is a relationship between your adrenal health and your thyroid health, its wise to get a hold on your stress levels. When you are chronically stressed, adrenal fatigue an overtaxing of the adrenal system may kick in, triggering your body to release hormones as a way of coping. This chronic stress can worsen thyroid issues, leading to imbalanced hormone levels. Chronically stressed? You might notice slowed metabolism and weight gain and stress may even further lower your levels of T3 and T4. It can also affect the conversion of T4 into T3.For this reason, its key to find a regular stress management ritual. This might be a daily yoga, meditation, or journaling break in which you disconnect from all distractions and stressors and simply focus on your breath and your emotional well-being. Regular nature walks also referred to as earthing or forest bathing have been proven to provide stress reduction on a physiological level as well.
What Is The Normal Reference Range For Thyroid Function Tests
Reference ranges for each value under thyroid hormone is not consistent for everyone. It differs based on certain parameters such as age, health condition, and the laboratory that performs the testing.Common reference ranges for the thyroid panel are enlisted here:
- TSH: 0.4 to 4.5 mIU/L
- Free T4: Often falls between 0.8 and 1.5 ng/dL in adults.
- Total T3: 75 to 195 ng/dL
Check your test report or ask your doctor for the normal/reference range. Most laboratory reports mention the reference ranges applied to your thyroid test, however, consult an expert to interpret the results. Also, since it is a panel test, values are generally interpreted together and not seen as individual numbers.
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Are There Other Uses For The Measurement Of Total T4
In addition to being used for the diagnosis of hypothyroidism, total T4 can be used to monitor therapeutic levels of thyroid hormone supplementation if your dog requires thyroid hormone replacement therapy.
Additionally, in the very rare cases of suspected thyroid gland cancer, total T4 can be monitored to determine whether the cancerous tissue is producing excessive amounts of thyroid hormone.
Free T4 By Lmmulite Or By Equilibrium Dialysis
Measurement of free T4 with a valid assay can be useful for diagnosis of true hypothyroidism and differentiating it from the euthyroid sick condition. Euthyroid sick dogs may have low T3 and /or T4 levels due to other non-thyroid factors . Free T4 is the non-protein bound thyroxine and it is present in lower concentrations in the blood than total T4. For accurate FT4 testing the procedure should have a method for separating the protein bound hormone from the free hormone.
The Equilibrium Dialysis method uses an overnight incubation in buffer and dialysis cells to separate the bound T4 from the free. The Immulite method uses a very specific antibody. The Immulite method is faster and less expensive than the ED method and for dogs it produces results that are comparable to the dialysis method. The lmmulite method will be used for all canine FT4 testing in this lab, unless ED is specifically requested. FT4 should be used to monitor thyroid supplementation in any dog known or suspected to have thyroid autoantibodies , as these tests remove the autoantibody effects.
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