What Tests You Should Get if You Suspect Your Thyroid

If you are experiencing unexplained symptoms like weight fluctuations, anxiety, fatigue, or a low mood, you will most likely decide to visit your physician for answers. Most physicians will order a full blood panel to help identify any specific medical issues or rule out ones they may suspect. Blood tests can be an effective and affordable way to gain a lot of information regarding your health, including a plan for thyroid treatment.

One thing commonly tested for on these blood panels is issues with the thyroid. Many symptoms can be linked to a thyroid underperforming, known as hyperactivity. The root cause of this is often a hormonal imbalance that needs to be treated in order to eliminate the frustrating symptoms.

In most cases, thyroid testing will be part of a traditional blood panel and be automatically prescribed, but it is also good to know what specific tests may help you to get answers. Understanding when to request these tests and which ones will be most effective for you can lead to a quicker and more effective diagnosis.

When to Ask for Thyroid Testing

Because of the important role the thyroid plays in overall health, thyroid tests are usually performed regularly, but that does not mean that your standard tests will catch any problem. Knowing what symptoms to look for can help you know when tests are necessary or if you feel you may have experienced a change lately.

Problems with losing and gaining weight are one of the common symptoms related to thyroid conditions. Unexplained weight gain or weight loss may be a symptom of hormonal imbalances that require thyroid treatment. Changes in mood, like depression or anxiety that was not present before, can also indicate hormonal imbalances.

When the thyroid is having problems functioning correctly, it can lead to physical symptoms as well. The hormones in the thyroid can impact energy levels and lead to unexplained fatigue. They can also cause both irregular menstrual cycles or irregular bowel movements that are noticeably different.

Any of these symptoms, along with sensitivity to temperature, muscle aches, dry skin, or hair loss, may indicate a thyroid problem and are worth having your levels assessed.

Common Tests

No one test can answer all questions about your thyroid function, but different aspects can be understood through different tests. The right method for you will depend on your symptoms and whether it is suspected you have hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism. There are four common tests you may undergo.

TSH Test

Your pituitary glands produce TSH, a hormone which then tells your thyroid to produce hormones. Elevated TSH levels can indicate your body trying to compensate for low levels of other hormones, while low TSH levels may mean you are overproducing those other hormones. This is the broadest test that can be used to indicate if there is an issue requiring thyroid treatment. While a TSH test cannot provide a diagnosis, it is typically the first step in the process.

Free T4 Test

Thyroxine, or T4, is the main hormone released by your thyroid. By determining if your thyroid is producing healthy levels of hormones, the T4 test gives a more detailed view than the TSH test alone. Based on your T4 levels, it can often be determined whether you have hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism and what the proper course of treatment may be.

Free T3 Test

After T4 is created by the thyroid, it is converted into T3 before the body can fully absorb it. In most cases, T3 levels, whether high or low, will correspond to T4 levels, though they can sometimes look different. When there are normal T4 levels and low T3, it may indicate a problem with the conversion process, which can be treated separately.

Thyroid Antibody Tests

Some thyroid conditions are caused by an autoimmune disorder that allows the immune system to attack the thyroid. When this happens, your body produces antibodies that can result in over-activity or underperformance in the thyroid. If these are present, it can indicate an autoimmune cause like Graves’ and Hashimoto’s disease, which commonly impact the thyroid.

Using Your Results

After undergoing some combination of these tests, your doctor should be able to help you understand what is happening with your thyroid, if anything. With this information, they can begin to create a thyroid treatment plan that is right for your body based on these test results. At Fox Integrated Health, we are able to perform these tests and assess your symptoms before creating a plan that is right for you. If you suspect your thyroid may be the root cause of your symptoms, contact us now to schedule your first appointment.