Knowing When To Check Your Thyroid
Why Would I Need These Tests
The thyroid gland‘s hormones help control some of your body’s metabolic processes, such as heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature and weight. Too much or too little of these hormones can make you ill.
You might need thyroid tests if:
- you have symptoms of hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism
- you are taking some form of thyroid hormone replacement treatment
- you are female and being investigated for infertility
Very rarely, babies are born without a working thyroid gland. For this reason, all Australian newborns are screened for hypothyroidism with a TSH test using a drop of blood taken from a heel prick.
How Do You Check A Man’s Thyroid
You can check your thyroid at home, by looking at your neck, feeling for lumps, and trying a swallowing test. However, a 2017 report from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force concluded that feeling the neck for lumps detected thyroid nodules in only 11.6% of cases. Ultrasound was five times more effective at finding any thyroid growths. You also may want to consider at-home tests.
Treatment of thyroid disease depends on whether you have hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.
You May Like: Is Vitamin C Good For Thyroid Patients
Who Should Get Testing
Thyroid function testing is often ordered when patients have symptoms of a thyroid disorder. Testing can assist with diagnosing or ruling out thyroid problems as a cause of your symptoms.
Many of the symptoms of common thyroid problems are nonspecific there is a wide range of diseases and disorders which may cause them. Thyroid function testing may be included with other tests to evaluate if you are having trouble with a non-specific symptom like fatigue, depression, or difficulty becoming or staying pregnant.
In addition to being used for diagnosis, thyroid function tests may be performed to screen for thyroid disease in patients who have no symptoms. Newborn infants are routinely screened for hypothyroidism shortly after birth.
Screening for thyroid disease in adults is controversial. Some experts recommend screening certain groups who are at higher risk of having an underactive thyroid. These risk factors may include:
- Family history of thyroid disease
- Personal history of type I diabetes
- Personal history of autoimmune disease
- Personal history of radiation to the head and neck
Other experts do not recommend routine screening for thyroid disorders in adults. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which issues screening recommendations, has concluded that there is currently not enough evidence to assess the benefits and drawbacks of screening for thyroid disorders.
Simple Test Straightforward Treatment
The good news: Most thyroid problems are easy to diagnose with a simple blood test that measures your level of thyroid hormone. “The test is very reliable and very sensitive,” says Hor.
Treatments are often very straightforward as well. Hypothyroidism is frequently treated with an inexpensive synthetic thyroid hormone that’s taken orally and is usually very well tolerated.
Hyperthyroidism treatments are more varied but might include 12 to 18 months of an oral medication or a one-time dose of radioactive iodine .
Bottom line: “If youre feeling fine and your weight is stable, there’s no need to get checked,” says Hor. “But if you notice one or more of these symptoms, or if you have a family history of thyroid dysfunction, ask your primary care doctor whether you should be tested.”
Don’t Miss: What Is An Overactive Thyroid Called
Other Ways To Test Your Thyroid
What about the more traditional ways to assess your thyroid? Those shouldnt be ignored either which is why they are mentioned here.
First on the list is the use of thyroid function testing which can be done by checking your blood.
This gives us an idea as to how much thyroid your gland is producing in total because we can assume that most of the thyroid that is produced by your thyroid gland is being released into your blood.
We can also test how responsive your thyroid gland is to influence from your brain by looking at hormones which are secreted from the brain .
All of this information helps us understand how your thyroid is functioning at the various levels of thyroid regulation.
Each one is important and has value, contrary to popular belief, with some tests being more valuable than others.
Thyroid Function Testing
There is definitely an art to testing the thyroid with many different tests being available.
Ordering the right tests and putting them into the greater context is very important for every thyroid patient.
I recommend that you use thyroid lab testing in conjunction with the other tests I already mentioned.
As it relates to lab tests, Ive broken down the important lab tests below.
You can read more about each of these labs, what they mean, and how to interpret your results in the links provided above.
Each test gives you slightly different information and its important to understand how they all fit together.
Medical History And Physical Exam
If you have any signs or symptoms that suggest you might have thyroid cancer, your health care professional will want to know your complete medical history. You will be asked questions about your possible risk factors, symptoms, and any other health problems or concerns. If someone in your family has had thyroid cancer or tumors called pheochromocytomas, it is important to tell your doctor, as you might be at high risk for this disease.
Your doctor will examine you to get more information about possible signs of thyroid cancer and other health problems. During the exam, the doctor will pay special attention to the size and firmness of your thyroid and any enlarged lymph nodes in your neck.
Read Also: Most Common Form Of Thyroid Cancer
Your Brain Feels Fuzzy
Sure, it could be caused by sleep deprivation or aging, but cognitive functioning can take a hit when your thyroid is out of whack. Too much thyroid hormone can cause difficulty concentrating and too little may cause forgetfulness and general brain fog. “When we treat patients for hypothyroidism, they are often surprised at how fast their brain fog goes away and how much sharper they feel,” Dr. Miller says. “Many women think it’s just something that comes along with menopause when it really is a sign of a thyroid problem.”
The Role Of Thyroid Function Tests
Thyroid function testing can be used in several ways, including:
- Diagnosis this testing aims to find the cause of symptoms. Thyroid function testing can reveal whether the thyroid gland is functioning normally or abnormally and what specific disorder you may have.
- Screening this is testing for disease in the absence of symptoms. All newborns in the U.S. are routinely screened for an underactive thyroid. Some adults may also be screened for thyroid disorders, although not all experts agree that this is beneficial.
- Monitoring thyroid blood tests provide valuable information about whether treatment for thyroid disorders is working as it should or if it needs adjustment.
Don’t Miss: How To Regrow Hair Loss From Thyroid
What Is The Thyroid Gland
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland that is normally located in the lower front of the neck. The thyroids job is to make thyroid hormones, which are secreted into the blood and then carried to every tissue in the body. Thyroid hormones help the body use energy, stay warm and keep the brain, heart, muscles, and other organs working as they should.
What Are Thyroid Hormones
The thyroid is a small gland that sits at the front of your neck. Itâs responsible for controlling many of the bodyâs key activities â such as metabolism. It does this by releasing specific hormones into the bloodstream.
A hormone is small chemical messenger that allows different parts of your body to âtalkâ with each other. The thyroid makes two kinds of hormones: thyroxine and triiodothyronine . These hormones circulate in your blood, allowing the thyroid gland to regulate many of the bodyâs important functions, such as:
- Metabolism â Thyroid hormones tell the body when to burn fat, which gives you more energy. Thyroid hormones can also trigger the production of glucose â a sugar formed from carbohydrates â to provide your body with more energy.
- Heart rate â Thyroid hormones can affect your resting heart rate .
- Internal body temperature â Thyroid hormones are involved in regulating your bodyâs internal temperature â so the thyroid gland acts a bit like a thermostat that helps make sure your body doesnât get too cool or too hot.
Whatâs more, thyroid hormones can contribute to more wakefulness and alertness because of how they affect the nervous system.
In short, your body requires the right balance of thyroid hormone levels in order to effectively carry out many of its functions.
You May Like: What Color Ribbon Is For Thyroid Cancer
Tests For Thyroid Cancer
Thyroid cancer may be diagnosed after a person goes to a doctor because of symptoms, or it might be found during a routine physical exam or other tests. If there is a reason to suspect you might have thyroid cancer, your doctor will use one or more tests to confirm the diagnosis. If cancer is found, other tests might be done to find out more about the cancer.
Why It Is Done
Thyroid hormone tests are done to:
- Find out what is causing an abnormal thyroid-stimulating hormone test. This is the most common reason for thyroid hormone tests.
- Check how well treatment of thyroid disease is working. The total thyroxine , free thyroxine , and free thyroxine index values are often used to keep track of treatment for hyperthyroidism.
- Screen newborns to find out if the thyroid gland function is normal. A condition called congenital hypothyroidism can prevent normal growth and development and cause other severe problems, such as intellectual disability, if it is not treated soon after birth.
Also Check: Why Did I Get Thyroid Cancer
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, heart rate, 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.
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.
Recommended Reading: What Are The Symptoms Of Medullary Thyroid Cancer
Your Bowels Are Unpredictable
People with hypothyroidism sometimes complain of constipation. The disruption in hormone production has likely caused a slowdown of digestive processes.
“There’s just no motility in your gut,” Dr. Miller says. “This is one of the top three most common symptoms of hypothyroidism I see.”
On the reverse side of the spectrum, an overactive thyroid gland can cause diarrhea or more frequent bowel movements, which is why they’re symptoms of hyperthyroidism.
How Is Thyroid Disease Treated
Your healthcare providers goal is to return your thyroid hormone levels to normal. This can be done in a variety of ways and each specific treatment will depend on the cause of your thyroid condition.
If you have high levels of thyroid hormones , treatment options can include:
- Anti-thyroid drugs : These are medications that stop your thyroid from making hormones.
- Radioactive iodine: This treatment damages the cells of your thyroid, preventing it from making high levels of thyroid hormones.
- Beta blockers: These medications dont change the amount of hormones in your body, but they help manage your symptoms.
- Surgery: A more permanent form of treatment, your healthcare provider may surgically remove your thyroid . This will stop it from creating hormones. However, you will need to take thyroid replacement hormones for the rest of your life.
If you have low levels of thyroid hormones , the main treatment option is:
- Thyroid replacement medication: This drug is a synthetic way to add thyroid hormones back into your body. One drug thats commonly used is called levothyroxine. By using a medication, you can manage thyroid disease and live a normal life.
Recommended Reading: Best Thyroid Diet To Lose Weight
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.
How The Thyroid Works
Just as the thyroid gland communicates with other organs through the hormone it produces, the pituitary gland in the brain communicates with the thyroid through a hormone it makesthyroid-stimulating hormone, or TSH. When the pituitary senses that thyroid hormone levels are too low, it releases more TSH to coax the thyroid into action. When the thyroid is nudged by TSH, it produces thyroid hormonea large proportion of which is thyroxine and a smaller proportion triiodothyronine . The T4 is eventually converted into T3, the active form that is taken up by receptors in body cells.
You May Like: Warning Signs Of Thyroid Cancer
You May Like: Hot Flashes And Thyroid Nodules
What Blood Tests Are Done To Test The Thyroid
Thyroid blood tests include:
These tests alone arent meant to diagnose any illness but may prompt your healthcare provider to do additional testing to evaluate for a possible thyroid disorder.
Additional blood tests might include:
- Thyroid antibodies: These tests help identify different types of autoimmune thyroid conditions. Common thyroid antibody tests include microsomal antibodies , thyroglobulin antibodies , and thyroid receptor antibodies .
- Calcitonin: This test is used to diagnose C-cell hyperplasia and medullary thyroid cancer, both of which are rare thyroid disorders.
- Thyroglobulin: This test is used to diagnose thyroiditis and to monitor treatment of thyroid cancer.
What Is Postpartum Thyroiditis
Postpartum thyroiditis, or inflammation of the thyroid after giving birth, affects 10% of women.3 It often goes undiagnosed because symptoms are much like the “baby blues” that may follow delivery. Women with postpartum thyroiditis may feel very tired and moody.
Postpartum thyroiditis typically happens in two phases, though not everyone with the condition goes through both phases:4
- The first phase starts 1 to 4 months after giving birth and typically last 1 to 2 months. In this phase, you may have signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism because the damaged thyroid leaks thyroid hormones out into the bloodstream.
- The second phase starts about 4 to 8 months after delivery and lasts 6 to 12 months. In this phase, you may have signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism because the thyroid has lost most of its hormones or because the immune attack is over and the thyroid may recover later.
Don’t Miss: What Is T3 In Thyroid Test