Is There an Over the Counter Thyroid Test?
You don’t have to book a doctor’s appointment and wait for them to arrange a blood test for you for your thyroid anymore; there are plenty of over-the-counter thyroid tests, and tests you can buy online so you can easily keep an eye on your TSH levels and monitor your thyroid without needing a prescription.
So, how does it all work?
How Do Thyroid Tests Work?
Thyroid tests test for three different hormones in our bodies: two thyroid hormones (triiodothyronine and thyroxine) and thyroid-stimulating hormone. The pituitary gland releases thyroid-stimulating hormone, also known as TSH, to get the thyroid gland to produce triiodothyronine and thyroxine, known as T3 and T4, which control the body’s metabolism, converting food to energy.
By testing a small sample of blood, thyroid tests measure the amount of these three thyroid-related hormones to see if the person taking the test has normal or abnormal levels of thyroid hormones. Some thyroid tests just check TSH levels, as this is a good indicator of your thyroid health and keeps the blood tests quicker and cheaper.
If your TSH levels are above 4.5 mU/L, you’ll likely be diagnosed with an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) as the pituitary gland releases more TSH when the thyroid isn’t producing sufficient T3 and T4. Likewise, if your TSH levels are below 0.45 mU/L, you’ll most likely be diagnosed with an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) as the pituitary gland is barely producing TSH because there is already too much T3 and T4 in the blood.
You should avoid self-diagnosing thyroid conditions, however, and make sure you see a doctor once you suspect you have a thyroid disorder so they can arrange further tests to rule out anything else, as well as look at your family’s medical history.
Can You Test Your Thyroid Levels Yourself?
You can test your thyroid levels yourself easily from your home, thanks to instant thyroid tests. While you should still visit your doctor if you haven’t had a thyroid diagnosis and you’re experiencing some of the symptoms, you can check your thyroid TSH levels yourself in order to monitor your levels under medical guidance.
With symptoms of an overactive thyroid, you can also feel the front of your neck to see if your thyroid gland is swollen. The thyroid is a gland located in front of the trachea, or windpipe, and swelling is a common symptom of the overproduction of T3 and T4 thyroid hormones, in the same way that the glands in our neck and groin sometimes swell when we’re feeling under the weather.
At-Home Thyroid Tests
Whether you go to the pharmacy and buy your thyroid tests over the counter or simply buy them online, taking thyroid tests at home has never been easier. Just follow the instructions in the box to take the blood sample with a quick finger prick, and send it off to the laboratory, or test centre, to receive your results within a few days.
Thyroid tests can range greatly in price from around £5 to £150, but cheaper tests don’t mean less accuracy. Most instant thyroid tests only test TSH levels as it’s a very good indicator of thyroid disease alone, particularly an underactive thyroid, which is why these thyroid tests are cheaper than those that test T3 and T4 levels as well. But some people do require T3 and T4 tests as well, so you should take the thyroid test that your medical practitioner advises.
When to Take Thyroid Tests At Home
Self-diagnosis of any medical conditions should be avoided at all costs, regardless of high medical fees or long doctor’s waiting lists. If you have symptoms of a condition, you should visit your doctor as soon as possible and give them details of your symptoms so that they can perform the appropriate medical tests to formally diagnose you and create a personalised treatment plan.
If you cannot get a doctor’s appointment for over two weeks, you’re becoming worried about your symptoms and the NHS non-emergency helpline 111 has advised you to keep an eye on your condition until you see a doctor, it may be helpful to take at-home thyroid tests. The test can then provide you with a quantifiable result on your thyroid condition that you can tell your GP or their receptionist over the phone so they can book you an emergency appointment if your TSH values are dangerously high or low.
However, at-home thyroid tests are the best tool for monitoring conditions, so they’re most often and best used by people with thyroid conditions who are undergoing treatment for them.
In many cases, doctors prescribe medicines for thyroid conditions, such as levothyroxine for underactive thyroids, as it effectively replicates the missing thyroxine (T4) in the blood. However, they need to know how much to administer and how well your body is reacting to the medication, so it’s important to monitor your TSH levels to see if the pituitary gland is recognising the replacement T4 and lowering levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone.
What Time Should You Take a Thyroid Test?
Many thyroid testing companies still don’t offer practical advice on what time of day to take a thyroid test, as the research is relatively new, however, you should take your thyroid test first thing in the morning for the best results.
TSH follows a circadian rhythm, or 24-hour cycle, so we now know that TSH levels are higher towards 8 am and drop steadily in the afternoon. Taking a thyroid test in the afternoon may then miss any abnormal TSH levels you experience in the morning, missing a thyroid diagnosis or incorrectly assuming medication is, or isn’t, working.
You don’t need to fast for your at-home thyroid tests, just take them first thing in the morning to see your highest TSH levels, and if you need to take them regularly, make sure you take them at the same time every day, before food, so you know there are no outside factors affecting your results.
When to Visit a Doctor
If you have any symptoms of an underactive or overactive thyroid, you should visit your doctor as soon as possible. Untreated thyroid conditions can seriously harm our health, from causing blockages in the body’s blood network that causes heart attacks and strokes, as well as complications with pregnancy.
However, it can also be difficult to look out for early warning signs of thyroid disease as the symptoms are often confused with other conditions. That’s why it’s crucial to be aware of all of the symptoms to know if you may have an underlying thyroid disorder.
Symptoms of an underactive thyroid include:
- Low sex drive
- Slow movements and thoughts
- Brittle hair and nails
- Weight gain
- Sensitivity to cold
- Dry skin
- Muscle cramps
- Numbness or tingling in the hands
- Irregular periods or heavy periods
Symptoms of an overactive thyroid include:
- Mood swings
- Swollen neck
- Weight loss
- Sensitivity to heat
- Heart palpitations
You’re unlikely to experience all of these symptoms, but if you do go through any, especially without a reasonable explanation (such as side effects of other medications or health conditions), you should visit your doctor and make them aware of your concerns over your thyroid health.
Buy the Best Thyroid Tests
Official Rapid Tests produce one of the UK’s best instant thyroid tests; easily purchase it online, have it delivered to your door the following day, send off your blood sample and receive your test results back within two working days via a secure link in your email inbox. That’s just one advantage of our high-tech medical laboratory management software.
Health tests shouldn’t break the bank, and we shouldn’t have to wait around for peace of mind either. Buy your instant thyroid test today.