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 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
Should I Take Thyroid Tablets Before Thyroid Test
If you are taking medicines for thyroid conditions to treat your thyroid disease, it is recommended that your blood sample be taken before you take your dose for that day. Have your medicine post the tsh test. Always consult your doctor for such suggestions as they know your health condition best and might advise otherwise too.
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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.
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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Is There Anything Else I Need To Know About A Thyroid Antibodies Test
Thyroid disease can get worse during pregnancy. This can harm both the mother and her unborn baby. If you have ever had thyroid disease and are pregnant, you may be tested for thyroid antibodies along with tests that measure thyroid hormones. Medicines to treat thyroid disease are safe to take during pregnancy.
When Tsh Alone Is Not Enough
During diagnosis, most healthcare providers use the TSH test to evaluate thyroid function and determine the optimal course of treatment. There are times, however, when knowing one’s TSH may be insufficient.
For instance, free T4 in addition to TSH is usually tested if a healthcare provider suspects thyroid dysfunction due to disease of the pituitary gland or hypothalamus.
Likewise, if the TSH is normal, but a person still has symptoms of being hyperthyroid or hypothyroid, free T4 may be checked.
TSH is also not necessarily sufficient to monitor hypothyroidism during pregnancy T4 and free T4 are often recommended.
Depending on the clinical situation, other thyroid tests that may be done include , free T3, reverse T3, and thyroid antibody tests.
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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.
What Does The Test Involve
A thyroid function test is a blood test which means a small amount of blood is taken through a needle placed in a vein in your arm. An elastic band is wrapped around your upper arm. It may feel tight for a few seconds. You may feel nothing at all from the needle, or you may feel a small brief sting or pinch. The blood sample is collected in a tube, which is sent to the laboratory for analysis. Read more about blood tests.
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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.
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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Drawing Blood For Thyroid Function Tests
Before you get a blood draw to check your thyroid levels, talk with your doctor about any medications youre taking. Also let them know if youre pregnant. Certain medications and being pregnant may influence your test results.
A blood draw, also known as venipuncture, is a procedure performed at a lab or a doctors office. When you arrive for the test, youll be asked to sit in a comfortable chair or lie down on a cot or gurney. If youre wearing long sleeves, youll be asked to roll up one sleeve or to remove your arm from the sleeve.
A healthcare professional, like a technician or nurse, will tie a band of rubber tightly around your upper arm to make the veins swell with blood. Once the healthcare professional has found an appropriate vein, theyll insert a needle under the skin and into the vein.
You may feel a sharp prick when the needle punctures your skin. The healthcare professional will collect your blood in test tubes and send it to a laboratory for analysis.
When the healthcare professional has gathered the amount of blood needed for the tests, theyll withdraw the needle and place pressure on the puncture wound until the bleeding stops. They will then place a small bandage over the wound.
You should be able to return to your typical daily activities immediately.
The Thyroid Screening Test
The thyroid stimulating hormone, or TSH test, is used as a screening test for thyroid disease, as well as a test for monitoring the correct dose of medication needed for an individual.
This is an important test that I recommend getting every time you check your thyroid function.
TSH is a pituitary hormone that responds to low/high amounts of circulating thyroid hormone. If youre new to thyroid lab testing, it may seem counterintuitive, but an elevated TSH means that you do not have enough thyroid hormone on board and that you are hypothyroid. This is because the TSH hormone senses low thyroid levels and is released when there is a lack of it, in an effort to signal the body to make more.
In advanced cases of Hashimotos and primary hypothyroidism, this lab test will be elevated. In the case of Graves disease and hyperthyroidism, TSH levels will be low. People with Hashimotos and mild or central hypothyroidism may have a normal reading on this test.
If youve been a thyroid patient for a while, youre probably thinking to yourself, Well, of course, doesnt everyone know that? and I have to warn you Ive unfortunately seen physicians who have mistakenly thought that a low TSH meant one had an underactive thyroid, and a high TSH, an overactive thyroid putting their patients in really dangerous situations by under- or overmedicating them!
Most conventional practitioners will stop further thyroid testing when they determine the TSH is normal .
Recommended test: TSH
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Top 10 Thyroid Tests And How To Interpret Them
Medically reviewed and written by Izabella Wentz, PharmD, FASCP
In my clinical experience, Ive seen many cases of thyroid problems go undiagnosed because most doctors dont perform a comprehensive test panel.
I spent almost a decade undiagnosed because I only had one marker tested. My thyroid condition was missed completely, leading me to deal with needless mystery symptoms like chronic fatigue, depression, anxiety, and many others, for far too long!
I still have a copy of my lab results from 2008, before I was diagnosed with Hashimotos. At that time, I was desperately searching for a reason behind my exhaustion, hair loss, anxiety, and digestive issues. According to this lab report, my TSH was at 4.5 IU/mL, yet there was a note written from the doctor declaring: Your thyroid function is normal, no need to do anything. Perhaps a TSH of 4.5 IU/mL would have been normal for a 95-year-old woman, but I was 25 and sleeping 12+ hours a night to feel rested!
Of course, even as a pharmacist, I didnt think to question the doctor and most people dont. If you suspect that you may have a thyroid condition, or know someone who does, this article will go over all of the most helpful tests that can help you identify a thyroid condition.
This article will also teach you how to understand your labs so that you can advocate for proper treatment for yourself.
In this article, Ill go over:
Controversies Over Optimal Tsh
Many non-modifiable factors influence a person’s TSH levels and dictate what a “normal” value is in an individual. This not only includes variations by a person’s biological sex or age but fluctuations that regularly occur during different seasons of the year.
Some experts argue that the upper limit of a normal TSH should be loweraround 2.5 mU/L. The reasoning behind this is that the vast majority of adults without thyroid disease have a TSH value between 0.45 and 4.12 mU/L. This is especially true in younger females.
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Thyroid Levels During Pregnancy
Thyroid hormone levels change during pregnancy. In fact, the ranges considered normal also change throughout pregnancy. What is considered normal may be slightly different depending on the lab where you get your blood test.
Thyroid levels are measured in milliunits per liter and picomoles per liter . A mole is a way to measure large amounts of very small things like atoms and molecules. A picomole is one-trillionth of a mole.
Normal ranges for non-pregnant people are as follows:
- TSH: 0.5-4.7 mIU/L
- Free T4 : 8.0-18 pmol/L
- Free T3 : 2.30-4.2 pmol/L
Normal ranges for pregnant people are different:
- FT3: 3.67-5.81 pmol/L
Preparing For The Tests
You dont need to do anything special to prepare for the thyroid function tests. If a healthcare professional has ordered other blood tests to be taken at the same time, you may need to fast for several hours before the test. They will let you know of any special instructions to follow.
Otherwise, you will not need to follow any specific directions before the test.
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The Different Types Of Thyroid Blood Tests
A TSH test or a blood thyroid test only states the amount of thyroid-stimulating hormone or thyroid hormone present in the blood and shows whether or not it lies in the normal range. A skilled medical practitioner diagnoses any underlying conditions that lead to abnormal results, if any.
Your doctor may advise you tests to find out values for either of the two or both hormones thyroid and TSH. A low TSH level means your thyroid is making high levels of thyroid hormones, as seen in hyperthyroidism. Similarly, a high TSH level implies that your thyroid is making low levels of thyroid hormones, as seen in hypothyroidism. While thyroid blood tests often do suffice for the doctors to make a clear diagnosis of the thyroid problem, additional tests may have to be ordered to reach a proper diagnosis in some cases. These tests may include, but are not limited to:
- T3 thyroid hormone tests
- FT4: free T4 or free thyroxin
- Thyroid antibodies
To diagnose Hashimotos thyroiditis and Graves disease
To diagnose thyroiditis or thyroid inflammation
What Are Thyroid Nodules
Thyroid nodules are small bumps that can form inside the thyroid gland. Approximately 90% of thyroid nodules are non-cancerous however, in some cases, these nodules may suggest the presence of thyroid cancer. Also, thyroid nodules can sometimes alter thyroid hormone levels, resulting in either hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.
Women are about 4 times more likely than men to have thyroid nodules. And older age, a history of thyroid radiation, and iron deficiency are all linked with a greater likelihood of having thyroid nodules.
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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 levels 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.
What Is It Used For
A TSH test is used to find out how well your thyroid is working. It can tell if you have hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism in your blood. But a TSH test can’t show what is causing a thyroid problem.
If you take prescription thyroid hormone medicine because of hypothyroidism or because you had your thyroid removed, you’ll have regular TSH tests to check your thyroid hormone levels. TSH tests are also used to monitor your thyroid hormone levels after treatment for hyperthyroidism.
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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 .
When Should I Get This Test
Consider getting a thyroid panel if you feel symptoms of hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism. The tricky thing is the symptoms are varied and can be easily overlooked.
Common signs of an overactive thyroid:
- Nervousness, anxiety, and irritability
- Loss of interest in sex
Symptoms of an underactive thyroid include:
- Muscle aches and weakness
Another reason to get a thyroid test is if you are currently undergoing thyroid treatment and your doctor wants to determine whether it is effective or if your thyroid feels enlarged.
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Medications To Avoid Before A Thyroid Blood Test
Similar to questions such as do you need to fast before a thyroid blood test, many people are concerned about any medications that may negatively affect or interfere with your thyroid test results. And similar to the effects of fasting, there are some medicines known to show anomalies in the results of thyroid blood tests.
One of these is a common over-the-counter daily supplement taken by many Vitamin B7 or Biotin. Biotin may alter and show high values of thyroid in blood when otherwise the results lie in the normal range. As suggested by doctors, biotin should be avoided at least 2 days before getting tested for thyroid dysfunctionality.