Thyroid testing is important for identifying and managing thyroid disorders. These tests can help diagnose conditions such as hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) and hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), as well as autoimmune disorders such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves’ disease.
Thyroid testing is especially important for certain groups of people, such as those who have a family history of thyroid disorders, are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant or have a history of radiation exposure or neck surgery.
Diagnosing thyroid disorders
Thyroid disorders are diagnosed through a combination of physical examination, blood tests, and imaging studies.
- Physical examination: A healthcare provider will examine the patient’s neck for any swelling or lumps, which may indicate an enlarged thyroid gland (goiter). They will also check for other symptoms such as hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, and rapid or irregular heartbeat.
- Blood tests: One of the most important tests for diagnosing thyroid disorders is a blood test that measures the levels of thyroid hormones (T3 and T4) and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) in the bloodstream. Abnormal levels of these hormones can indicate a thyroid condition.
- Imaging studies: Depending on the symptoms and results of the physical examination and blood tests, a healthcare provider may order an ultrasound or radioactive iodine uptake (RAIU) scan to evaluate the thyroid gland. These tests can help identify the size and shape of the gland, as well as any abnormalities such as nodules or cysts.
- Biopsy: In some cases, a healthcare provider may recommend a biopsy of any suspicious nodules in the thyroid gland. A biopsy is a procedure where a small sample of tissue is taken from the thyroid and examined under a microscope.
Types of thyroid blood tests
There are several different blood tests to check or diagnose thyroid disorders. Some of the most common tests include:
- Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) test: This test measures the level of TSH in the blood. TSH is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland that stimulates the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormones. High levels of TSH can indicate an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), while low levels can indicate an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism).
- Free T4 test: This test measures the level of free thyroxine (T4) in the blood. T4 is a thyroid hormone that helps regulate the body’s metabolism. Low levels of T4 can indicate an underactive thyroid, while high levels can indicate an overactive thyroid.
- Free T3 test: This test measures the level of free triiodothyronine (T3) in the blood. T3 is another thyroid hormone that helps regulate the body’s metabolism. Low levels of T3 can indicate an underactive thyroid, while high levels can indicate an overactive thyroid.
- Thyroid peroxidase (TPO) antibodies tests or thyroid antibody tests: This test measures the level of TPO antibodies in the blood. Elevated levels of TPO antibodies can indicate autoimmune thyroid disorders such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
- Thyroglobulin (TG) antibodies test: This test measures the level of TG antibodies in the blood. Elevated levels of TG antibodies can indicate autoimmune thyroid disorders such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
It’s important to note that these diagnostic methods are not always conclusive and a combination of tests (thyroid function tests) may be needed to check if the thyroid is working as it should. Additionally, thyroid diseases can be subtle and may take a while to diagnose, especially in the early stages.
It’s also crucial to get these tests done under the guidance of a healthcare provider, as the results may vary depending on the time of the day, and other factors such as pregnancy, or recent use of certain medications.
If you suspect that you may have a thyroid disorder, talk to your healthcare provider about getting tested, to determine the right time and schedule for thyroid test near me, as well as interpret the results and guide you on the appropriate treatment.