What Is Being Tested
Thyroid function tests are used to check for a number of thyroid problems. The tests measure the amount of different hormones including thyroid stimulating hormone , thyroxine , and triiodothyronine . Other tests on the thyroid include various antibodies related to thyroid tissue.
TSH is produced by the pituitary gland in the brain. TSH is carried in the blood to the thyroid gland, which sits at the front of the neck. From there, TSH influences how much T4 and T3 are released into the blood.
TSH, T3 and T4 levels can all be tested in the blood. Your doctor will probably test TSH first, then T3 and T4 if TSH is abnormal. Tests can also be used to measure antibodies to diagnose autoimmune thyroid disease.
When You Should Get Your Thyroid Checked
Because the thyroid impacts so many processes in the body, thyroid tests are pretty routine. But despite the wide array of symptoms that can be caused by a thyroid issue, these tests arent helpful in diagnosing every possible condition. By familiarizing yourself with the symptoms that could be caused by an overactive or underactive thyroid, youll know when the tests are actually necessary.
You should ask for thyroid testing if you experience the following:
- Depression and/or Anxiety. Mood changes and anxiety are common symptoms of thyroid disorders, and your thyroid function should be considered before making a mental health diagnosis.
- Problems Gaining or Losing Weight. If youre experiencing unexplained weight gain or loss despite making no changes to your activity level and caloric intake, you may be experiencing a thyroid-related hormone imbalance.
- Bowel or Menstrual Irregularities. Thyroid issues can cause both irregular bowel movements and irregular menstrual cycles. If these are changing unexpectedly, you might want to consider thyroid testing.
- Fatigue. Thyroid hormones can have a significant impact on energy levels and should be one of the first sites of investigation if you are experiencing ongoing fatigue.
Do You Need A Thyroid Test
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, we recommend a range of tests that determine if you have a thyroid problem and whats causing it. We offer comprehensive support to help restore your thyroid function, such as lifestyle recommendations, nutritional supplements, and thyroid-replacement medication.
To learn more, call us today or use our online scheduling feature to book your appointment now.
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How Much Does A Thyroid Test Cost
Private thyroid testing might not cost as much as you expect. And you may also be surprised to hear you can carry out the test itself using a finger prick kit at home, saving the cost and inconvenience of visiting a clinic.
Our advance thyroid test is £65 and as well as testing for FT3, FT4 and TSH it also tests for Thyroglobulin Antibodies and Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies.
What Is Thyroid Disease
Some diseases of the thyroid or pituitary gland cause the thyroid to make too much or not enough thyroid hormone:
- If the thyroid is overactive, it releases too much thyroid hormone, causing . The body use up energy more quickly than it should, and chemical activity in the cells speeds up. Symptoms include sweating, trembling, weight loss, and fast heartbeat.
- If the thyroid is underactive, it makes too little thyroid hormone, causing . The body uses up energy more slowly, and chemical activity in the cells slows down. Symptoms include tiredness, feeling cold, constipation, dry skin, and slow height growth in children.
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What Do The Results From My Thyroid Function Test Mean
If a result in your thyroid function blood test is outside the normal range it can be flagged as high or low . Interpretation of the many variations in test results is complex and an abnormal result may not mean that anything is wrong. Other health conditions, extreme stress and pregnancy affect the levels of thyroid hormones, as well as medicines. Talking with your doctor about what your results mean for you is important.An abnormal TSH usually indicates a deficiency or an excess of thyroid hormones available to your body, but it does not indicate why this is happening. An abnormal TSH result is usually followed by additional testing of FT3 and/or FT4 to investigate the cause.A high TSH result:
- often means an underactive thyroid gland
- can also occur if you have an underactive thyroid gland and are receiving too little thyroid hormone medication
- can, in rare cases, indicate that you have a problem with your pituitary gland, eg, a tumour.
A low TSH result:
- can indicate an overactive thyroid gland or damage to your pituitary gland that is preventing it from producing TSH
- can also occur if you have an underactive thyroid gland and are receiving too much thyroid hormone medication.
When To Contact A Doctor
Contact a doctor if your test results are abnormal, which could indicate a thyroid disorder. If your results are normal, you may want to see a doctor if you have any health concerns, symptoms of a thyroid disorder, or a personal or family history of thyroid conditions.
You can also visit your doctor to discuss or interpret your test results. They can confirm the results of your home test, which may include a diagnosis of a thyroid condition. Your doctor can also recommend treatments, additional tests, and any lifestyle changes.
See a doctor if you have symptoms of hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, which may include:
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Knowing Which Thyroid Tests To Ask For Can Help You Get The Right Diagnosis
When you visit your health care practitioner seeking help for persistent symptoms like unexplained weight changes, fatigue, anxiety, or low mood, they will likely recommend getting a full panel of blood tests. These results help identify or rule out a multitude of medical issues that might be causing your symptoms. Overall, blood tests are a safe and inexpensive first step in treatment for a vast number of conditions.
Thyroid tests are commonly called for under these circumstances. When your thyroid is underperforming or hyperactive, you could experience a wide range of symptoms that dont resolve on their own. Rather than trying to address these symptoms in isolation, identifying the hormonal imbalance that lies at their root is essential to getting the right treatment and protecting your health.
While most health care practitioners will automatically prescribe thyroid testing if it seems useful for diagnosis, its also a good idea to be ready to ask for specific tests. Knowing which thyroid hormone tests to ask for will help you get an accurate diagnosis and allow you to make the best treatment choices based on all the available facts.
How Do You Check Your Thyroid Levels
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
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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.
Getting Your Thyroid Checked
There is no definitive age at which you should have your thyroid checked. When you go into the doctor for a physical exam, they will perform certain routine maintenance checks like testing your reflexes, and checking your blood pressure. A full thyroid level check is typically not included in this type of routine check up. These are the five tests that are necessary to determine the health of your thyroid gland:
- Micronutrient analysis
- Basal body temperature
A routine physical exam might include a couple of these tests, but usually not all of them. And you need all of them to make an accurate thyroid diagnosis.
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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.
Its common for people to chalk up some thyroid symptoms fatigue, irritability, sleep problems to general life stress, says Tiffany Hor, MD, an endocrinologist at Rush.
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.
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.”
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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 Does Your Thyroid Gland Do
Your thyroid gland is a gland found at the front of your neck, just below your Adams apple. Your thyroid gland produces hormones that play a key role in regulating your metabolism and affects things like your heart rate, body temperature, and breathing. These hormones are:
These hormones are controlled by thyrotropin-releasing hormone and thyroid-stimulating hormone .
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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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How To Read Thyroid Test Results
A blood test showing a high level of TSH and low T4 may be an indicator that a person has hypothyroidism.
Higher levels of TSH and T4 levels in a typical range may mean that a person is at risk of developing hypothyroidism in the future.
People who receive results that show they have low levels of TSH and higher levels of T3 or T4 is an indicator that they have hyperthyroidism.
However, it is important to discuss any at-home thyroid test results with a healthcare professional to ensure a person is interpreting the results correctly.
If a persons symptoms persist, they should contact a healthcare professional.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism may include:
If symptoms indicate a thyroid disorder, but the result of an at-home test is negative, contact a doctor for advice.
Below are answers to some common questions about at-home thyroid tests.
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Can I Live A Normal Life With A Thyroid Disease
A thyroid disease is often a life-long medical condition that you will need to manage constantly. This often involves a daily medication. Your healthcare provider will monitor your treatments and make adjustments over time. However, you can usually live a normal life with a thyroid disease. It may take some time to find the right treatment option for you and manage your hormone levels, but then people with these types of conditions can usually live life without many restrictions.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/19/2020.
- Merck Manual Consumer Version. Overview of the Thyroid Gland. Accessed 11/18/2021.
- US Department of Health & Human Services, Office of Womens Health. Thyroid disease. Accessed 11/18/2021.
- American Thyroid Association. What you need to know about the thyroid. Accessed 11/18/2021.
- US Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Hyperthyroidism . Accessed 11/18/2021.
- American Thyroid Association. General Information/Press Room. Accessed 11/18/2021.
- US Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Hypothyroidism . Accessed 11/18/2021.
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Early Warning Signs Of Thyroid Issues
Thyroid issues can be difficult to diagnose on their own. This is due to the fact that they can be mistaken for other health issues such as menopause or cognitive problems. On the other hand, there are early warning signs of thyroid issues that you should be aware of.
7 early warning signs of thyroid issues include:
- Sensitivity to heat
- Sensitivity to cold
While these symptoms may point to a problem with your thyroid, only a medical professional will be able to confirm it beyond a shadow of a doubt. Our team of board certified physicians are here to help diagnose your thyroid disease and develop a treatment plan that will help restore your health.
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You Always Feel Hot Or Cold
Thyroid disorders can prevent the thyroid gland from regulating body temperature. People with an overactive thyroid or hyperthyroidism can cause sensitivity to heat and excessive sweating. And on the opposite side, people with an underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism may struggle to keep warm at all.
Why Hypothyroidism Is Not Diagnosed On Symptoms Alone
Many of the symptoms of hypothyroidism are fairly common complaints found in people with a normally functioning thyroid gland, so it can be hard to decipher if the symptoms are related to the thyroid. One of the best ways to figure out if your symptoms could be related to a thyroid condition is to consider how long you have been experiencing them.
For example, have you always felt cold when others were warm? Did you just start to notice decreased energy? If you are starting to notice new signs and symptoms, it could be related to a thyroid issue. However, only a physician can diagnose a thyroid problem.
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Slow Or Rapid Heart Rate And Palpitations
The health of your thyroid gland has direct effects on your heart. People with hyperthyroidism experience a harder and faster heartbeat even at rest due to excess thyroid hormones. It can trigger heart palpitations where you feel like your heart is pounding, racing, or fluttering.
While on the opposite side, people with hypothyroidism experience a relatively slow heart rate. This thyroid disorder can cause the arteries to become stiffer, increasing the strain on the heart, making its functions worse over time, leading to heart failure.
You Have Gastrointestinal Issues
If you have such issues, it may be assumed that something is wrong with your digestive system. But the thyroid may also cause gastrointestinal problems. Dr. Block told me that bowel changes are one of the symptoms of a malfunctioning thyroid. Specifically, the Mayo Clinic describes one of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism as changes in bowel patterns, especially more frequent bowel movements, while constipation can be a symptom of hypothyroidism.
Womens health expert Carolyn Dean, MD, ND told me, Slow metabolism leads to slow bowel movement.
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Signs You Should Get Your Thyroid Checked
One tiny gland in your body that weighs under one ounce can put you into a world of hurt if it is not working correctly. That would be the thyroid gland. The Mayo Clinic notes that your thyroid âis located at the base of your neck, just below the Adamâs apple.â The gland contains hormones that regulate multiple functions in your body, including your metabolism, heart rate, and body temperature. So if it malfunctions, you can have a variety of health issues.
There are two basic ways your thyroid gland can go awry, according to EndocrineWeb.com: hyperthyroidism, in which the gland produces too much thyroid hormone, and hypothyroidism, in which it produces too little. These disorders can be caused by a variety of issues and are more common in women than in men, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Here are the symptoms you should watch out for that can show that the gland is overactive or underactive.