What Tests Are Done to Check for Thyroid?
Thyroid problems affect around 2% of adults in the UK and should be monitored carefully as untreated thyroid diseases can cause serious health problems. Fortunately, there are thyroid function tests and instant thyroid tests that can help diagnose and monitor hormone levels that affect how the thyroid works.
To fully understand how thyroid tests work and when they can be useful, it’s helpful to understand the basics.
What Is the Thyroid?
The thyroid is a small gland in the neck, in front of the trachea that produces two hormones: Thyroxine, or T4, and Triiodothyronine, T3. These hormones help your body regulate your body’s metabolism. This in turn has an effect on many aspects of your physical health as it affects how your body processes fat, leading to serious health problems.
The pituitary gland, towards the bottom of the brain, controls the amount of T4 and T3 produced by the thyroid gland by releasing Thyrotropin, known as Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone, or TSH. If the levels of T4 and T3 are too low, the pituitary gland releases TSH; if the T4 and T3 levels are too high, it stops releasing TSH.
What Is Hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism is more commonly known as an underactive thyroid, and is named such because it involves low levels of thyroid hormones T3 and T4. If these levels are consistently lower than the standard ranges, our bodies begin to process fat differently, leading over time to clogged arteries, high cholesterol and heart attacks.
If you believe you have an underactive thyroid, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. If you have an underactive thyroid, it’s equally important to monitor it.
What Is Hyperthyroidism?
Hyperthyroidism, thyrotoxicosis or an overactive thyroid, is the opposite of hypothyroidism, as there is an excess of thyroid hormones T4 and T3 in the blood. 10 times more common in women than men, hyperthyroidism can affect anyone, although it’s most commonly caused by Graves’ disease. Graves' disease is an autoimmune condition; the immune system fights the thyroid gland which causes an excess of thyroid hormones.
An overactive thyroid should also be diagnosed as soon as possible to avoid increasing further risk of atrial fibrillation, heart failure or strokes.
What Are the Symptoms of Thyroid Problems?
Thyroid problems often go undiagnosed for long periods as their symptoms are very similar to other conditions, especially depressive illnesses and stress-related conditions.
Underactive thyroid symptoms include:
- Weight gain
- Sensitivity to cold
- Dry skin
- Muscle cramps
- Low sex drive
- Slow movements and thoughts
- Brittle hair and nails
- Numbness or tingling in the hands
- Irregular periods or heavy periods
Overactive thyroid symptoms include:
- Mood swings
- Weight loss
- Sensitivity to heat
- Swollen neck
- Heart palpitations
These symptoms can be related to many different conditions or normal reactions to pressures in your life, so be careful not to self-diagnose. If you’re concerned you may have an underactive or overactive thyroid, visit your doctor as soon as possible and ask for a thyroid test.
Or, since doctor’s appointments can be hard to come by in the UK recently, take an instant thyroid test at home before seeing your doctor or calling 111 to speed up the wait for an appointment.
Can You Test for Thyroid Problems?
If you’ve been to the doctor with symptoms of thyroid disease, they will perform a thyroid function test to see if it is your thyroid that is causing the problem. A thyroid function test is a blood test that tests for levels of TSH and T4. Low T4 and high TSH levels indicate an underactive thyroid which your pituitary gland is trying to simulate.
To detect an overactive thyroid, the thyroid blood test checks T3 and TSH as well as T4, as high T3 and T4, and low TSH levels show evidence of hyperthyroidism.
If your thyroid function test comes back with normal T4 levels but elevated TSH, you’ll be recommended to take more regular blood tests to monitor your T4 levels as you’re at risk of developing an underactive thyroid.
One way of monitoring your thyroid hormones, aside from thyroid function tests, is by using instant thyroid tests, which you can perform in the comfort of your home.
How Do Instant Thyroid Tests Work?
Instant Thyroid Tests are more convenient than thyroid function tests as you can have them delivered, take them in your own home and get your results in hours. Just prick your finger and collect a small sample of your blood ready to send off for testing - the test is simple and painless. However, if you have concerns about your thyroid, you should visit a doctor as soon as possible and take their advice about how and when to monitor your thyroid with at-home tests.
That’s because instant thyroid tests only test for thyroid-stimulating hormone, which is a very useful indicator for doctors about how well your thyroid is functioning, but it’s by no means the only diagnostic tool necessary.
Instant thyroid tests can be very useful when supported by expert medical knowledge, so if you have hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, here’s why instant thyroid tests can be very helpful for you.
Why You Need Instant Thyroid Tests
If you’ve been diagnosed with an underactive thyroid, you’ll usually be given a medication such as levothyroxine, that replaces the missing thyroxine (T4) that your thyroid gland hasn’t been producing. However, at least in the beginning, it’s very important to take regular thyroid tests to see how your body is responding to the medication and work out a regular dose.
This can be identified through testing TSH levels as when your thyroid is not producing enough T4, your pituitary gland releases TSH to provoke it. Rather than heading backwards and forwards to your doctor’s office regularly, it’s much easier to take an Instant Thyroid Test and record your TSH levels so you can clearly inform your doctor of your progress the next time you see them.
Once your hormones have been regulated, you’ll usually only require a blood test once a year to keep track of your TSH and T4 levels, however, if you notice your symptoms have come back, you can also take an instant thyroid test to see if your TSH levels are on the rise and it’s time to get your thyroid checked again.
If you have an overactive thyroid, it’s likely you’ll need to have a different form of treatment such as taking thionamides or undergoing radioactive iodine treatment which. Instant thyroid tests can be beneficial to stay on top of TSH levels, however, T3 regulation is equally important in hyperthyroidism so you should take your doctor’s advice over blood tests.
Can Thyroid Problems Be Cured?
You can’t cure all thyroid diseases, however, treatments are incredibly effective. Medicines effectively regulate T4, T3 and TSH levels for most people with underactive thyroids and other methods can prove beneficial to those with overactive thyroids such as surgery or radiation therapy.
However, removing the thyroid altogether is usually a last resort as it requires you to take medicines that replace the thyroid hormones for the rest of your life.
Accurate Instant Thyroid Tests
Instant Thyroid Tests can help people with hypothyroidism stay on top of their TSH levels when they really need it, from diagnosis to treatment. As well as taking on expert medical advice, take an instant thyroid test so you know exactly how well your thyroid is working.
At Official Rapid Tests, we securely handle samples and results for all kinds of medical testing with our state-of-the-art laboratory management software helping the whole organisation, from our registering service to our test centres and laboratories.