Why Consider This Test
Specific Thyroid Concerns
Tests that measure both TSH and T4 can be used together to screen for and help diagnose thyroid conditions, including hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism .2
Female Health and Fertility
Women are five to eight times more likely than men to have thyroid problems. Hypothyroidism is a leading cause of difficulty in achieving and maintaining pregnancy.2
Undiagnosed thyroid disease may put patients at risk for certain serious conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis, and infertility. Most thyroid conditions can be managed with medication.2
How To Test Your Thyroid Function
18th Nov 2022 6 min read
Your thyroid gland produces hormones that help control your metabolism. If you dont make enough of these hormones, its called hypothyroidism . If you make too many of these hormones, its called hyperthyroidism . An autoimmune disease sometimes causes thyroid disorders. If your thyroid isnt working correctly, it can cause tiredness, weight gain or loss, and mood problems. A blood test can check for a thyroid disorder and autoimmune thyroid disease.
Comparing High/low Tsh And T3/t4 Levels
- Normal TSH + normal T4 = normal thyroid function
- High TSH + normal T4 = you may have a higher risk of developing an underactive thyroid
- Low TSH + high T4 = overactive thyroid
- High TSH + low T4 = underactive thyroid
- Low TSH + low T4 = low thyroid function due to another problem, such as pituitary gland dysfunction
Looking at TSH alongside T3 test results can also help with diagnosis:
- Low T3 + high TSH = low thyroid function
- High T3 + low TSH = overactive thyroid
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What Does A Low Tsh Mean
A low TSH level means you either suffer from secondary hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. The symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:
- Muscle weakness
What may be causing low TSH? Autoimmune diseases, thyroid nodules, inflammation, inactive or underactive pituitary or hypothalamus glands, or medication side effects may be causing low TSH levels.
What Should I Do With The Analysis
You should use the analysis to empower yourself and learn more about your results, but not to diagnose yourself with a thyroid-related condition, such as hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, Graves disease, or Hashimotos thyroiditis. Proper diagnosis and treatment require a holistic look at your previous medical history, symptoms, lifestyle, and more. Your doctor is the best person to do this.
You can use this information to inspire questions or use it as a starting point for a conversation with your doctor at your next appointment. Asking the right questions can help you know what to expect.
Also, consider bringing along a doctor discussion guide for even more guidanceit lists common vocabulary terms your doctor may use and important questions about symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment, and living well with thyroid disease.
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Perform A Physical Exam
The second test you can perform at home is a simple physical exam. For this, you will need both a mirror you can use to see your neck and a small glass of water.
Position yourself in front of the mirror where you can see the lower area of your neck, specifically the front of your neck. You’re looking for the area above the collarbone but below the voice box. You can find various diagrams of the location of the thyroid online, like this one.
Focus on looking at this area of your neck, and tilt your head back. This puts tension on the skin in the area and makes anything under the skin more visible.
With your head tilted up and while watching that area of your throat, take a sip of water. You’re looking for the moment when you swallow. What you’re looking for are any bumps, protrusions, or odd shapes moving. A small symmetrical lump moving is fine that’s your thyroid naturally shifting as you swallow. You’re looking for anything odd about it, like a lump sticking out. Something that protrudes to the side on one side of your throat but not the other, that kind of thing.
This is generally quite rare. A protrusion means you might have some kind of cancer, a cystic condition, nodules, or another physical malformation of your thyroid gland. This is definitely a case where you need to see a doctor, so call your physician immediately to make an appointment for an evaluation.
What Are Thyroid Hormones
Thyroid hormones are secreted by the thyroid gland secretes. Three thyroid hormones exist, but T4 and T3 are the most prominent.
Heres what each thyroid hormone does within the body:
- T4 is the primary hormone produced by the thyroid gland. Also known as tetraiodothyronine, T4 is inactive. Its primary function is to become active T3.
- T3 is the active form of T4. It regulates your metabolism and other vital functions. 20% of it is made in the thyroid, while most T3 is produced in other organs from T4.
- Calcitonin is the less prominent hormone that your thyroid gland produces. It helps regulate calcium and phosphate levels in your blood, both of which contribute to healthy bones.
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What Are Thyroid Blood Tests And Why Are They Taken
Thyroid blood tests are used to tell if your thyroid gland is functioning properly by measuring the amount of thyroid hormones in your blood. They are done by withdrawing blood from a vein in your arm. These blood tests help to diagnose thyroid diseases.
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the front part of your neck. Its job is to produce thyroid hormones, which travel through your bloodstream and regulate many aspects of your bodys metabolism, including temperature, weight, and energy.
Thyroid blood tests show if you have:
- Hyperthyroidism: Overactive thyroid producing more thyroid hormones than your body needs. Hyperthyroidism speeds up your metabolism, which can cause weight loss, rapid heartbeat, insomnia, puffiness around the eyes, anxiety and other symptoms. The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is Graves disease.
- Hypothyroidism: Underactive thyroid producing too few thyroid hormones. Hypothyroidism slows down your metabolism, which can cause weight gain, menstrual irregularity, dry and puffy skin, fatigue and other symptoms. The most common cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimotos disease.
Thyroid blood tests are used to diagnose thyroid disorders associated with hyper- or hypothyroidism. These include:
Radioactive Iodine Uptake Test
A radioactive iodine uptake test, also called a thyroid uptake test, can help check thyroid function and find the cause of hyperthyroidism. The thyroid takes up iodine from the blood to make thyroid hormones, which is why this is called an uptake test. Your health care professional may ask you to avoid foods high in iodine, such as kelp, or medicines containing iodine for a week before the test.
For this test, you will swallow a small amount of radioactive iodine in liquid or capsule form. During the test, you will sit in a chair while a technician places a device called a gamma probe in front of your neck, near your thyroid gland. The probe measures how much radioactive iodine your thyroid takes up from your blood. Measurements are often taken 4 to 6 hours after you swallow the radioactive iodine and again at 24 hours. The test takes only a few minutes.
If your thyroid collects a large amount of radioactive iodine, you may have Graves disease, or one or more nodules that make too much thyroid hormone. You may have this test at the same time as a thyroid scan.
Even though the test uses a small amount of radiation and is thought to be safe, you should not have this test if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
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Whats The Easiest Way To Test Your Thyroid Levels
Modern Fertility measures your thyroid levels using the same test that a specialist at a fertility clinic would use but you can do it from the comfort of your couch and for a fraction of the price.
With our test, youll also get access to:
- Physician-designed reports based on your results, including one focused on thyroid hormone levels and any health implications of your results
- A free 1:1 consult with our fertility nurse
- Online tools to track hormone changes over time and help you plan your timeline for kids
- Access to our live Q& As
- An invite to the Modern Community to connect with others and get your questions answered
Testing your thyroid hormones is easy with Modern Fertility.
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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When Is Treatment Needed
Treatment is needed when your thyroid levels are too high or too low, ranging outside the optimal levels. Normal TSH levels are typically considered 0.5-5.0 mIU/L. We prefer the upper limit to be 2.5 mIU/L.
Thyroid hormone replacement using levothyroxine is the most common treatment for an underactive thyroid . Usually, thyroid medications like levothyroxine are not our first response to treating thyroid dysfunction.
Radioactive iodine, antithyroid agents, and beta-blockers are the most common treatments for an overactive thyroid.
There are many different root causes of thyroid conditions. The best treatment for either hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism is addressing your unique root cause, such as stress, leaky gut syndrome, toxin exposure, nutrient deficiencies, inflammatory diet, or thyroid cancer.
Here at PrimeHealth, we do just that create individual, integrative treatments that impact the root cause of your thyroid levels.
What Blood Tests Do Doctors Use To Check Thyroid Function
Doctors may order one or more blood tests to check your thyroid function. Tests may include thyroid stimulating hormone , T4, T3, and thyroid antibody tests.
For these tests, a health care professional will draw blood from your arm and send it to a lab for testing. Your doctor will talk to you about your test results.
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Side Effects And Aftercare
A blood draw is a routine, minimally invasive procedure and doesnt have many side effects.
During the days immediately after the blood draw, you may notice slight bruising or soreness at the area where the needle was inserted. Placing an ice pack on the affected site or taking 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.
Types Of Thyroid Function Tests
The purpose of thyroid blood tests is to measure the thyroid gland’s function. This is done by looking at hormones and other substances produced by the thyroid gland and organs that control thyroid function.
A single test offers helpful information about your thyroid health, but it usually takes more than one test to get a complete picture.
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Tsh And Its Role In Thyroid Function
TSH stands for Thyroid Stimulating Hormone, and is the main hormone checked by doctors to assess thyroid function. TSH is actually secreted by the pituitary gland in the brain, not the thyroid gland.
The pituitary gland will secrete more TSH in response to sensing a need for more thyroid hormone production. TSH then travels to the thyroid gland and, as its name implies, stimulates it to make more thyroid hormone.
Thyroid Problems: Here Are The Warning Signs And How To Check
If youre a woman, theres a good chance you spend a lot of time thinking about your breasts. You may have wanted them to be bigger as an adolescent, stressed about your milk supply as you became a mother and started lactating, or entered the stage of life where you need regular mammograms to help protect against breast cancer .
But theres another body part you need to make sure youre monitoring: your thyroid. Similar to the prevalence of breast cancer among women, the American Thyroid Association says that 1 in 8 women in the U.S. will develop a thyroid disorder, and 60% of those who have one are unaware of their condition.
Here, experts explain why staying on top of your thyroid function is important, and list some red flags that something may be up with yours.
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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 tsh 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.
What To Consider In Your Personal And Family Medical Histories
Its important to give your physician as many details as possible about your personal medical history, as well as family history . Be sure to discuss:
Your general state of healthparticularly any changes you have noticed in your general overall health.
Your familys health historyespecially if a close relative has been diagnosed with hypothyroidism .
Whether youve ever had , or radiation to your neck to treat cancer.
Any medicines you may be taking that could cause hypothyroidism .
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What Is Your Thyroid
The thyroid gland is located at the base of your neck. Its part of the endocrine system and is responsible for regulating hormones throughout your body to help you sleep, give you energy, and help you stay warm.
The main hormones it produces are thyroxine and triiodothyronine , which control how your cells use energy. Your thyroid gland regulates your metabolism through the release of these hormones.
Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid doesnt make enough T4, T3, or both. Its the most common thyroid condition, affecting 5% of the population worldwide, with another 5% who have the condition but havent been diagnosed.
In hyperthyroidism, the opposite occurs. The thyroid becomes too active and makes too much of the thyroid hormones.
Testing your thyroid levels at home is convenient and accurate when done correctly, and with the range of home test kits to choose from, you may find one that you like.
Read on to find out what thyroid tests are available and if theyre right for you.
Anyone can get their thyroid checked. However, certain populations can be at higher risk for thyroid disorders, including:
- people born with a uterus
- people with autoimmune disorders, including type 1 diabetes
- people with a history of thyroid disorders
- people who smoke
- people with a family history of thyroid disorders
You may want to undergo testing if youre showing any symptoms of hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.
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 tsh test. If you experience any pain or bleeding, apply ice packs
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What Does A High Tsh Mean
What can happen if the TSH level is too high? If a TSH level is too high, it may be a sign of hypothyroidism. Here are some of the symptoms of hypothyroidism:
- Enlarged thyroid
There are two main forms of hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid:
Another form of secondary hypothyroidism, which some even call tertiary hypothyroidism, occurs when your hypothalamus releases too little thyrotropin. This issue with the hypothalamus can affect the pituitary gland, which in turn affects the thyroid gland.
What may be causing high TSH? Autoimmune diseases such as Hashimotos, toxin exposure, or even food allergies may be causing high TSH levels, which is due to low thyroid hormone levels and hypothyroidism.
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 11 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 64,244 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. The thyroid gland can be functionally underactive or overactive. The thyroid can be enlarged, have benign nodules and, more rarely, malignant nodules.
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