Do you really need a thyroid test?
February 17, 2022
What role does the Thyroid play in your health?
When you think about maintaining good health, you probably think about eating healthy, exercising, checking your blood pressure, and watching your weight. Go a little deeper and you may consider the functioning of vital organs like the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys. How often do you think about your thyroid? You may be surprised to learn how many important bodily processes rely on the healthy functioning of that 2-inch butterfly-shaped gland at the base of your neck. The hormones produced by the thyroid regulate your body’s metabolic rate. That means that your heart, brain, muscles, skeletal system, digestive system, blood pressure, and more all rely on that tiny gland working the way it’s supposed to. If your thyroid is underperforming, your body is not going to operate anywhere close to 100%. So how do you tell if you have a thyroid problem?
As many as 20 million people in the United States alone suffer from some type of thyroid disorder. While thyroid problems can affect anyone, women are as much as 8 times more likely than men to have thyroid issues. The tricky thing is that thyroid disorders may not cause any symptoms right away and the symptoms you do experience are often associated with other health problems. The breadth of signs that can point to thyroid disease may surprise you.
- Irregular menstruation
- Hair loss
- Pain in the wrists, hands, or fingers
- Feeling tired all the time
- Weight loss or gain
- Memory problems
- Vision problems
It’s hard to believe one underactive gland can cause all these problems. Keep in mind that not everyone with a thyroid disorder will experience the same symptoms and most of these can easily be related to other health issues. So how do you know if the thyroid is to blame?
What are the most important tests for Thyroid Function?
Fortunately, there are a number of blood tests that can help to tell you if your thyroid is in good shape or maybe underperforming. Your thyroid gland functions in a feedback loop with other parts of your body including the hypothalamus and pituitary gland to maintain the production of hormones that keep various systems in your body functioning. If one or more parts of this process fail, your health can start to suffer. How thorough you get with your thyroid testing is going to depend on how complete a picture you want of your thyroid health. You can start with one simple blood test or do a whole panel of testing. The important thing to remember is that identifying the source of your health issues is the first step to getting treated. You can’t address the problem until you know what’s wrong. Taking the first step by getting tested is one of the most important things you can do to take charge of your health. Here are a few of the most important thyroid tests that can help you get started.
Thyroid Stimulating Hormone aka TSH: This one you’ve probably heard about. If your thyroid hormone levels are low, the pituitary gland produces TSH which in term stimulates the thyroid gland to produce more hormones, hence the name. TSH is one of the most commonly checked blood markers for thyroid health. Keep in mind that just measuring TSH may not give you the most complete picture of your thyroid health, but it’s a good place to start. If your TSH level is abnormal a great next step is to look at your T3 and T4.
Triiodothyronine aka T3 & Thyroxine aka T4: T3 and T4 are the 2 primary hormones produced by the thyroid. T4 helps regulate your metabolism, body temperature, and mood amongst other things. T3 plays an important role in digestion and bone health. You can measure either your total or free levels of T3 and T4 or both. Free T3 and T4 and the portion of the hormones that are unbound to other substances in the blood and available for your body to use. Measuring the free levels of T3 and/or T4 is typically considered more useful than just the total levels.
If you’ve checked your TSH, T3, and T4 there are plenty of other thyroid tests you can move on to. You can also start with a more comprehensive panel of blood work if you want to save time by checking multiple numbers at the same time. Keep in mind that any time you start to see irregular measurements on any of these tests is a good time to talk to your doctor.
The key takeaway is that while it may be often overlooked, you should not underestimate the importance of your thyroid gland. So many health issues can be traced back to thyroid disorders that they should always be a part of the discussion when it comes to both monitoring and maintaining your health. Request A Test offers a full selection of both individual thyroid tests and packages to meet anyone’s needs. Choose the test or tests that work best for you or talk to one of our representatives to get a better understanding of your options. Your health is in your hands and Request A Test is here to help.
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