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.
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.
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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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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.
How Does A Thyroid Blood Test For Hyperthyroidism Work
A TSH test for hyperthyroidism evaluates your levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone , and the thyroid hormones T3 and T4 may also be evaluated. Because TSH signals the thyroid gland to produce more thyroid hormones, unusually low thyroid-stimulating hormone levels can mean that your thyroid is making too many hormones. T3 and T4 measurements can also reveal just how high your thyroid hormone levels are, which can help your healthcare provider decide on a treatment strategy.
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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 control 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 control thyroid disease and live a normal life.
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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Reason #: Youre Tired All The Time
A condition called hypothyroidism may be responsible for your fatigue and sluggishness. Hypothyroidism occurs when you have too little thyroid hormone in your system. Without adequate amounts of thyroid hormone in your bloodstream and cells, your muscles are also weak and it takes all your energy to perform basic functions.
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
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Can Pregnancy Cause Me To Develop Thyroid Issues
You may develop an illness called postpartum thyroiditis after you give birth. During the next 12 months, you might experience weight loss, develop an increased sensitivity to heat, and suffer from other health issues. The symptoms of postpartum thyroiditis may resemble the health issues that are associated with hyperthyroidism.
Unfortunately, some healthcare providers may misdiagnose this problem. For example, your healthcare provider might believe that a postpartum mood disorder is causing you to experience these negative symptoms. If you receive a misdiagnosis and do not treat your postpartum thyroiditis, you might develop other health issues. If you are experiencing symptoms of this illness, you should visit our office in Louisville for thyroid testing.
Which Thyroid Test Should You Get
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One of the most common questions that I get asked is that What all tests do I need to get to check my thyroid completely?
Its so unfortunate that most of the patients that I have seen have not gotten the complete thyroid panel.
Majority of the time the only test they get is TSH. Even though these patients have classical symptoms of thyroid dysfunction but nobody has even thought about doing the complete thyroid panel for them.
The reason is that to date the recommendations in the conventional medicine world are to just order TSH to check for thyroid dysfunction.
But often if we just do one test to check for thyroid dysfunction we miss the opportunity to diagnose several other cases who we can help. Unless you have the correct diagnosis how are you going to improve your symptoms?
And even for people who are taking thyroid medicine the only way their medicine is adjusted is based on this test called TSH. And its no surprise that several people who are taking thyroid medicine continue to suffer from symptoms.
It is because often they are under-treated or overrated. Also if we just do one test then we dont know if levothyroxine is the right medicine for you or we need to change your thyroid medicine.
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How Long Does It Take To Recover From Thyroid Surgery
It will take your body a few weeks to recover after your thyroid is surgically removed . During this time you should avoid a few things, including:
- Submerging your incision under water.
- Lifting an object thats heavier than 15 pounds.
- Doing more than light exercise.
This generally lasts for about two weeks. After that, you can return to your normal activities.
How Can I Check My Thyroid At Home
To check your thyroid at home, order an online test, which you will receive by mail. Once you receive your kit, carefully read and follow the instructions, which may specify the time of day to do the test.
In addition to written directions, companies may provide instructional videos and online tutorials. Contact the company or a healthcare professional before taking the test if you have questions or if any of the information is unclear.
Most tests require using a lancet to prick your finger and collect a blood sample. Drop the blood onto a test strip or into a small tube before sending it to the laboratory. Youll usually receive your electronic results within a week.
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Why Having A Correctly Working Thyroid Matters
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 dont 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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Signs You Should Do A Thyroid Function Test
If any of these hormones are out of balance, it can lead to a thyroid disorder and cause a wide range of symptoms. If youre experiencing any of these symptoms, its essential to check your thyroid function. Its also common for thyroid disorders to run in families, so its imperative to test your thyroid function if you think you might be at risk.
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What Is Thyroid Cancer
Cancer of the thyroid is a cancer that starts in the thyroid gland, which is the butterfly-shaped gland at the base of your neck. The thyroid gland produces hormones that help regulate your metabolism, heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature.
Although it is a rare type of cancer, it affects millions worldwide and often goes undiagnosed. An estimated 500 new cases have been found in Oklahoma this year, according to the American Cancer Society.
The main types of thyroid cancer are differentiated , medullary, and anaplastic .
The Role Of The Thyroid
The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland in the neck. This gland is crucial for producing hormones that control vital functions in the body, such as metabolism. However, if the thyroid produces too much of these hormones, a person may develop a condition called hyperthyroidism. If a person produces too little of these hormones, this may indicate a condition called hypothyroidism. What are the signs of these thyroid diseases?
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Signs Of Thyroid Trouble
The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists estimates that 30 million Americans have some kind of thyroid disorder. Thats a surprising number but even more startling is that up to 50% of people with thyroid disease arent even aware that they have it.
Such nonspecific symptoms are often easy to ignore, but the consequences of postponing diagnosis and treatment can be serious: Over the long term, untreated thyroid issues can lead to health complications ranging from an increased risk of osteoporosis to cardiovascular issues.
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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Too Much Or Too Little
Hypothyroidism is when your thyroid produces too little of these hormones. This is the most commonly diagnosed form of thyroid disease, affecting nearly 5 percent of Americans. Although it can be hereditary, hypothyroidism is often triggered by autoimmune disorders such as Hashimotos or inflammation called thyroiditis. Symptoms can include:
Feeling cold when others do not
Weight gain, without eating more
Joint pain and muscle weakness
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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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Normal And Abnormal Tsh Ranges
0.4 mU/L to 4.0 mU/L is considered the , and people who have a normally functioning thyroid gland usually fall within this range.
If TSH measures more than 4.0 mU/L, a second test is performed to verify the results. TSH of more than 4.0/mU/L with a low T4 level indicates hypothyroidism.
If your TSH is more than 4.0 mU/L and your T4 level is normal, this may prompt your physician to test your serum anti-thyroid peroxidase antibodies. When these antibodies are present, it may indicate an autoimmune thyroid disorder, which is a risk factor for developing hypothyroidism. If you have these antibodies, your doctor will most likely perform a TSH test at least once per year.
An easy way to remember how the thyroid worksthink about supply and demand. As the T4 level falls, the TSH rises. As the T4 level rises, the TSH falls. However, not everyone with hypothyroidism has elevated levels of TSH.
If your pituitary gland is not working properly, it may not send out normal TSH amountsand if this is the casethe thyroid may be healthy. However, if the amount of TSH is off, the thyroid wont make the right amount of T4. This is rare and is known as secondary or central hypothyroidism.
Why Do I Need A Tsh Test
You may need a TSH test if you have symptoms of too much or too little thyroid hormone in your blood.
Hyperthyroidism is also called overactive thyroid. Having more thyroid hormones than you need speeds up your body functions and causes symptoms that include:
- Weight loss, even though you may be eating more than usual
- Sweating or being very sensitive to heat
- Frequent bowel movements
Hypothyroidism is also called underactive thyroid. Not having enough thyroid hormone slows down your body functions and causes symptoms that include:
- Being very sensitive to cold
- Joint and muscle pain
You may also have a TSH test, along with other tests, to help diagnose unusual bumps or lumps on your thyroid that may be thyroid cancer or thyroid nodules .
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