How To Test For Thyroid Problems At Home
How to check your thyroid hormones at home?
The Everlywell at-home thyroid test can tell you if your thyroid hormone levels suggest hypothyroidism. This thyroid function test requires only a few drops of blood as a sample. After getting your online test results, you can easily see your levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone , free T3 and T4, and TPO antibodies. High TSH and/or low T3 and T4 can indicate hypothyroidism.
You can also take our thyroid test at home to check your hormones for indications of hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism means your thyroid gland is overactive: itâs producing too many hormones. Low levels of TSH and/or high T3 and T4 can suggest hyperthyroidism.
When Is It Ordered
A thyroid panel may be ordered when you have signs and symptoms that suggest underactive thyroid or overactive thyroid due to a thyroid disorder.
Signs and symptoms of an underactive thyroid may include:
- Trouble tolerating heat
- Sometimes more frequent bowel movements
- Some uncommon problems that can affect the eyes: puffiness around the eyes, dryness, irritation, excessive tearing, light sensitivity, blurry double vision
- In some cases, bulging of the eyes
- Less frequent or lighter menstrual periods in women
What Are Thyroid Function Tests
Thyroid function tests are a series of blood tests used to measure how well your thyroid gland is working. Available tests include the T3, T3RU, T4, and TSH.
The thyroid is a small gland located in the lower-front part of your neck. Its responsible for helping regulate many bodily processes, such as metabolism, energy generation, and mood.
The thyroid produces two major hormones: triiodothyronine and thyroxine . If your thyroid gland doesnt produce enough of these hormones, you may experience symptoms such as weight gain, lack of energy, and depression. This condition is called hypothyroidism.
If your thyroid gland produces too many hormones, you may experience weight loss, high levels of anxiety, tremors, and a sense of being on a high. This is called hyperthyroidism.
Typically, a doctor who is concerned about your thyroid hormone levels will order broad screening tests, such as the T4 or the thyroid-stimulating hormone test. If those results come back abnormal, your doctor will order further tests to pinpoint the reason for the problem.
If youre concerned about your thyroid function and dont already have a primary care doctor, you can view doctors in your area through the Healthline FindCare tool.
There are also at-home thyroid function tests available from LetsGetChecked and Everlywell. Healthline has also created a list of best at-home thyroid tests here.
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What Should I Do To Prepare For A Thyroid Function Test
Thyroid function tests usually require very little preparation.
You don’t need to fast before the blood test. And it doesn’t matter if you have taken your thyroid medicine just before the blood test.
Tell your doctor if you are taking any medication, as some medicines can alter the test results and how they are interpreted.
It is also important to mention if you have had any X-ray tests that have used a special contrast dye, as this may contain iodine which can affect the results. Levels of thyroid chemicals also change in pregnancy, so tell your doctor if you are pregnant when the test is taken.
Note: all newborn children have their thyroid function tested as part of the heel prick test which is offered to all babies and undertaken when they are 5 days old. See the separate leaflet called Newborn Baby Screening Tests for more information.
What About Those Already On Thyroid Medications
If youre already on thyroid meds, but still have symptoms, it is possible you may need to up your dosage so that your labs fall within the optimal range, to help you feel better.
Please take a look at my article on TSH for a letter that you can take to your physician if he/she is not familiar with the current optimal reference range. As I mentioned earlier, I personally feel best with a TSH a bit under 1 IU/mL, but you may need some trial and error to find your personal best TSH.
Once you establish a dose of medication thats working for you and as long as your symptoms dont change you can test your thyroid hormones every six months.
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What Is A Thyroid Function Test
A thyroid function test is a blood test to check the levels of the hormones made by your thyroid gland. The test also checks the level of a hormone made by the pituitary gland in your brain, which acts on your thyroid gland.
The two hormones, thyroxine and thyroid-stimulating hormone , work together and are usually in balance. In a healthy person the brain produces just the right amount of TSH to keep the thyroid gland ticking over. The thyroid gland then produces just the right amount of thyroxine.
This is called a feedback loop: if the thyroid gland makes too much thyroxine it will feed back to the brain to make less TSH. This diagram shows the feedback loop between the thyroid gland in your neck and the pituitary gland in the brain:
See the separate leaflet called Thyroid Problems for more details.
High Free T4 And T3 Results
A low TSH, and a high free T4 and/or T3 blood test is consistent with a diagnosis of primary hyperthyroidism.
If your TSH is normal or elevated, and your free T4 and T3 are high, you might need an MRI of your pituitary gland to evaluate for a condition called central or TSH-induced hyperthyroidism. This is a rare condition that occurs when the pituitary gland makes too much TSH.
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What Foods Should Be Avoided With Hyperthyroidism
Eating too many iodine-rich or iodine-fortified foods in your diet may cause hyperthyroidism or make it worse in some cases.
If you have hyperthyroidism, your healthcare provider may recommend certain changes to your diet. Always consult your provider or a registered dietician before making drastic changes to your diet. If you take medication for your hyperthyroidism, always take the amount prescribed by your provider.
According to the National Institutes of Health , the recommended daily dose of iodine is about 150 micrograms . The daily dose is higher for pregnant people. A low-iodine diet requires even less.
Seafood has the most iodine. Just 1 gram of seaweed contains 23.2 micrograms , or .02 milligrams .
If your provider or dietician has recommended a low-iodine diet, try to avoid the following seafood and seafood additives:
What Does Your Thyroid Do
Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the front of your neck. Its job is to make hormones that help other systems in your body work properly, including your metabolism and heart rate.
When your thyroid produces too many or not enough hormones, other processes in your body may speed up or slow down.
Hyperthyroidism or overactive thyroid occurs when your thyroid makes more hormones than your body needs. On the other hand, hypothyroidism occurs when your thyroid doesnt make enough hormones to sustain your bodys normal processes.
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Hyperthyroidism Signs And Symptoms
- Fine, brittle hair
- Changes in your menstrual cycle
If youâre an older adult, youâre more likely to have subtle symptoms like a faster heart rate or being more sensitive to warm temperatures. Or you could just feel more tired after everyday activities.
Certain medicines can mask the signs of hyperthyroidism. If you take beta-blockers to treat high blood pressure or another condition, you might not know you have it. Be sure your doctor knows about all the medications you take.
When you first get hyperthyroidism, you may feel energetic. This is because your metabolism is sped up. But over time, this increase in your metabolism can break your body down and cause you to feel tired.
Usually, hyperthyroidism develops slowly. If youâre young when you get it, the symptoms might come on suddenly.
How Tsh Levels Change
TSH levels seem counterintuitive. Why does a high TSH mean you have an underactive thyroid gland? And why do low levels mean it’s overactive?
To answer that, you have to know that TSH and thyroid hormones are different things. The thyroid hormones are:
Your body uses thyroid hormones to regulate all kinds of processes. That includes how fast you burn calories, your heart rate, and many other automatic functions.
When thyroid hormones are low, your pituitary makes more TSH. That signals the thyroid to increase production. When levels are high, the pituitary releases less TSH. That signals the thyroid to slow down. This is why high TSH indicates low thyroid function and vice versa.
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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 you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s essential to check your thyroid function. It’s also common for thyroid disorders to run in families, so it’s imperative to test your thyroid function if you think you might be at risk.
Things That Can Affect Your Thyroid Function Results
MedicationsSome medications can interfere with your results, so it’s important to tell your doctor about any drugs you take.
PregnancyBeing pregnant can also influence your results. So if you’re pregnant, make sure to discuss this with your doctor.
Time of dayYour circadian rhythm can slightly affect your TSH levels. This means that the time of day you do your blood test could affect your results. TSH typically peaks in the early hours of the morning, drops to lower levels mid-morning, and increases again in the early evening. How much your levels will change really depends on you as an individual.
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What Imaging Tests Do Doctors Use To Diagnose And Find The Cause Of Thyroid Disease
Your health care professional may order one or more imaging tests to diagnose and find the cause of thyroid disease. A trained technician usually does these tests in your doctors office, outpatient center, or hospital. A radiologist, a doctor who specializes in medical imaging, reviews the images and sends a report for your health care professional to discuss with you.
Thyroid Function Test Results Simulating Hyperthyroidism
Excess estrogen from pregnancy or estrogen therapy leads to elevated levels of thyroxine-binding globulin, which manifests as elevated total T4 and T3 levels while TSH and free T4 levels remain normal .20,21 These findings do not indicate hyperthyroidism and require no treatment.21
Patients with critical or acute illness often develop the nonthyroidal illness syndrome manifesting as mildly decreased TSH levels and normal or mildly decreased T4 levels. In contrast to subclinical hyperthyroidism, the T3 level is usually low and the reverse T3 level is elevated. This condition resolves spontaneously when the patient recovers from the acute illness.21
Exogenous glucocorticoids or dopamine may cause a mild decrease of TSH levels, a situation often occurring in the intensive care unit. Total T4, total T3, and free T4 levels remain normal. TSH levels return to normal after these medications are discontinued.21
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How Do Doctors Treat Hyperthyroidism
Your doctor will treat your hyperthyroidism to bring your thyroid hormone levels back to normal. Treating the disease will prevent long-term health problems, and it will relieve uncomfortable symptoms. No single treatment works for everyone.
Your treatment depends on whats causing your hyperthyroidism and how severe it is. When recommending a treatment, your doctor will consider
- When part of the thyroid is removed, your thyroid hormone levels may return to normal.
When part of your thyroid is removed, you may develop hypothyroidism after surgery and need to take thyroid hormone medicine. If your whole thyroid is removed, you will need to take thyroid hormone medicine for life. After surgery, your doctor will continue to check your thyroid hormone levels.
Researchers are looking into new ways to treat hyperthyroidism. An example is radiofrequency ablation , a new approach to treating thyroid nodules that cause hyperthyroidism.5,6 RFA is used mainly in cases where medicines or surgery wont help, and is not yet widely available.
These 5 Tests Can Detect Hyperthyroidism Or Overactive Thyroid Gland
Are you showing symptoms of hyperthyroidism or overactive thyroid? You must get these five tests done as soon as possible.
Almost everything that happens to our bodies is because of hormones whether big or small. Hormones are the chemicals that carry several vital functions by regulating glands. Thyroxine is one of the very important hormone that is produced in the thyroid gland situated around the neck. It is very important to have balanced hormonal levels for proper functioning. When thyroxine hormone levels fluctuate, you are said to have thyroid. This is not a disease though but you must learn to manage it. Higher levels of thyroxine causes overactive thyroid or hyperthyroidism. If you doubt your thyroxine hormones are high, here are five medical tests that you can take to confirm it.
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How To Order Your Lab Tests
If your doctor is ordering thyroid labs for you, be sure to request a copy so that you can see them for yourself and ensure that they are interpreted correctly.
Additionally, I have included self-order options for most of the labs discussed, in case your current doctor wont order the labs for you.
The self-order options are discounted panels that I set up with Ulta Labs and can be ordered almost anywhere in the U.S. . You will receive a lab order that can be taken to your local lab, and the results will be sent to you electronically.
You can order each individual test that I recommend below, or you can order the entire discounted panel here.
In many cases, you can self-order the labs and then send the receipts for reimbursement to your insurance.
Now, lets take a look at each thyroid test and what they mean for your thyroid health.
When To A Doctor
Hyperthyroidism is a serious condition that can affect your overall health if left untreated. You should schedule an appointment with your doctor if you experience one or more symptoms of an overactive thyroid.
Before your appointment, write down:
What your symptoms are, when they started, and how often you experience them
Any medications youre currently taking
Your family medical history
Any other conditions you may have
Any questions you may have about hyperthyroidism and treatment options
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What More Should I Know About Thyroid Blood Tests
Ranges noted here are approximate your providers may differ slightly. Its important that you remember abnormal readings do not necessarily mean a thyroid disorder is present, as each test can be affected by a variety of factors.
No preparation is required for these tests. They can be taken any time of day without fasting.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 12/27/2019.
How To Take Your Test
Although the specifics of each test may vary slightly by company, most tests follow a similar procedure:
Once the lab has your sample, they will measure your thyroid hormone levels and send you the test result. Some testing companies will even work with board-certified healthcare providers. These healthcare providers can provide you with further information based on your measurements.
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Is Hyperthyroidism The Same Thing As Thyrotoxicosis
Hyperthyroidism is a type of thyrotoxicosis. Hyperthyroidism happens specifically when your thyroid gland both produces and releases excess thyroid hormone. Thyrotoxicosis happens when you have too much thyroid hormone in your body in general. You could have too much thyroid hormone by taking too much thyroid medication, for example. This would be thyrotoxicosis, not hyperthyroidism.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Getting a new diagnosis can be stressful. The good news is that hyperthyroidism is a manageable and treatable condition. If youre experiencing symptoms of hyperthyroidism or have certain risk factors, such as a family history of Graves disease, be sure to contact your healthcare provider. They can have you undergo some simple tests to see if your thyroid is making too much thyroid hormone.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/19/2021.
Thyroid Hormone Level Tests
There are four main thyroid hormones that have been identified: T1, T2, T3, and T4.
T4 and T3 are the two main thyroid hormones. T4 is known as prohormone and is 300 percent less biologically active than T3. T3 is the main biologically active thyroid hormone and gives us beautiful hair, replenishes our energy, and runs our metabolism.
You may have put together that most of the commonly prescribed thyroid medications like Synthroid and levothyroxine, only contain T4 , and thus they need to be converted to the active T3 form in the body.
On paper, the T4 to T3 conversion happens just fine, but in the real world, in real human bodies, we may not always convert T4 to T3.
We can reveal our T4 to T3 ratios and measure the hormone that is available to do its job in the body, by testing our free T4 and free T3 levels.
Free T3 and Free T4 tests measure the levels of active thyroid hormone circulating in the body.
Some clinicians may only test for T4, but T3 is also important to test, as some individuals may not be converting T4 to the active T3 properly. Thus, people may have a normal T4, but a low T3 level.
How Do You Know If You Are Converting Correctly?
Take a look at your free T3 and free T4 levels. Both should be in the optimal ranges noted below, which have been determined by functional medicine guidelines and my clinical experience. If the T4 is optimal, but the T3 is below the optimal range, you know that your body is not making enough T3 hormone from the T4.
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