Thyroid Tests- Why and what they mean?

The Thyroid Test checks how much of the TS-hormone is in your blood sample. A TSH Test – Thyroid Stimulating Hormone test is done to find out if your thyroid and pituitary gland are working optimally. When it is over-functioning it is called hyperthyroidism. Similarly, when it is sluggish it is called hypothyroidism. By doing the thyroid test one can discover and treat thyroid at an early stage. When untreated thyroid disorders lead to health complications as the pituitary gland directly controls the brain in the production of the hormone.

The TSH test is a blood test involving drawing some blood and then analyzing the sample in the lab. Since TSH levels change during the day it is best to do the test early morning. Normal practice is to use the single sample of blood drawn for a variety of blood tests like the total count, haemoglobin levels, WBC and RBC counts, blood sugar levels and so on.

Certain medications like steroids, dopamine, opioid painkillers, lithium etc may need to be stopped before the test. However, check with your doctor. The drawing of blood is a very simple process and you may feel the prick. There could be bruising which disappears in a few days.

High Levels of TSH

The normal acceptable TSH range is 0.4 to 5 milli-international units per litre (mIU/L).

When your levels are higher it shows an underactive thyroid. Pregnancy causes higher TSH levels while medications like painkillers like morphine, steroids, dopamine and some others cause a lowering of TSH levels.

Low Levels of TSH

An overactive thyroid shows up in low TSH levels. This can indicate conditions like

  • Excess iodine in the body.
  • Excess of supplements containing Thyroid hormone.
  • Excess thyroid medications.
  • Graves’ disease in rare cases where your immune system attacks thyroid functions

Besides the TSH Test the sample is evaluated for free T3, T4, reverse T3 and anti-TPO antibody tests. Treatment is suggested by the doctor only after evaluation of all these tests.

Treatment for hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid is usually taking a small dose of synthetic thyroid pill daily to normalize the TSH levels. You will feel less fatigue, lose weight and feel better.

Treatment for hyperthyroidism or overactive thyroid could be

  • Surgery to remove the thyroid in rare cases.
  • Anti-thyroid medications to prevent hormone over-production.
  • Beta blockers to reduce a rapid heart-beat rate caused by high thyroid levels.

To ensure correct levels are maintained the TSH tests are repeated every 3 months.

Symptoms of thyroid disorders:

Hyperthyroidism symptoms include

  • Increased appetite but a loss in weight.
  • Increased nervousness, blood pressure, increased heart rates, palpitations, and excessive perspiration
  • Diarrhoea with an increase in bowel movement
  • Hand tremors and weak muscles
  • Enlarged neck goitre.
  • Menstrual periods becoming shorter, lighter or infrequent.

Hypothyroidism symptoms may include

  • Depression, lethargy, slowing of mental processes
  • Reduced heart rate and low blood pressure
  • Cold sensitivity with tingling and numbness in the hands.
  • Dry skin and hair, constipation and development of Goiter in the neck.

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