Interpretation of TSH Levels.
TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) blood test is usually used to check for problems with the thyroid gland. The hypothalamus releases TRH (thyrotropin releasing hormone) which triggers production of TSH by the pituitary gland. TSH triggers the thyroid gland to release two hormones T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine) which help control the body’s metabolism. T3 and T4 are necessary for normal growth and development of the human brain during the first three years of life. Therefore, babies whose thyroid glands are not making sufficient thyroid may be mentally retarded in severe cases.
Why should you test for TSH levels?
A test for TSH is done to:
- Determine whether the thyroid gland is functioning properly.
- Hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid gland) can cause several symptoms including dry skin, weight gain, constipation, frequent menstrual periods, tiredness, and inability to cope with low temperature.
- Hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid) causes symptoms such as rapid heart rate, diarrhea, irregular menstrual periods, feeling too hot, nervousness and weight loss.
- Find out the main cause of hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland) Hypothyroidism can be caused by a damaged thyroid gland or other causes such as problems with the hypothalamus or the pituitary gland.
- Monitor treatment with any thyroid replacement medication especially in people who are being treated for hypothyroidism.
- Monitor thyroid gland function for people who have hyperthyroidism. Treatment can include surgery, radiation therapy, or antithyroid medication.
- Double check diagnosis of congenital hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland in newborns).
It is vital to notify the physician in case you have had an x-ray that uses iodine dye or any radioactive material within the last six weeks. Your TSH test results may not be accurate if you have had any iodine material at least 6 weeks before having the test.
TSH levels and What They Mean
Different laboratories test different samples or use different measurements. TSH test and values can vary among different labs and hence the different ranges for what would be regarded as normal. However, normal TSH values range from 0.4 to 4.0mIU/L (milli-international units per liter). Besides the test results, your thyroid doctor will also consider other symptoms in order to determine whether treatment is necessary.
High TSH Levels
This can be caused by:
- Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) the most common cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
- Not taking appropriate or enough medicine for treating an underactive thyroid gland.
Low TSH Levels
This can be attributed to:
- Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid gland); the main caused include Graves’ disease, benign (a non-cancerous) or toxic multinodular goiter.
- Secondary hypothyroidism (damaged pituitary gland and hence the inability to produce TSH).
- Pregnancy especially during the first trimester
- Taking an overdose of thyroid medicine.
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Factors That Affect the TSH Test.
- Having long-term chronic illness or severe stress.
- Recent x-ray tests using radioactive materials or iodine dye
TSH test is used as one of the initial blood tests to detect hypothyroidism; however, the thyroid doctor may need to conduct additional tests in order to diagnose hypothyroidism. For instance, your thyroid doctor may also check the level of free thyroid (amount of thyroxine in the body).