World Thyroid Day: Everything you must know about thyroid profiling tests

May 25, 2015

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    Thyroid disorders

    World thyroid day is observed on May 25 every year to draw attention to thyroid-related problems and increase the visibility of its treatment. With around 42 million people suffering from different thyroid problems in India alone, the disorder is on an all-time rise. Thyroid diseases may be classified as hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and thyroid cancer. With such high incidence, you should be aware of the symptoms of thyroid disease.

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    Symptoms of thyroid disease

    Fatigue, constipation, stiffness in joints, bloating- are all symptoms of hypothyroidism. While hyperthyroidism gives you symptoms like increased bowel movements, sweating profusely, rapid heart rate, excessive fatigue, and unexplained weight loss. Your doctor may prescribe a thyroid profiling test if you experience any of these symptoms. If you are above the age of 35, The American Thyroid Association recommends that you undergo screening every five years. Here’s all you need to know about the five thyroid profiling tests.

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    Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) test

    The above symptoms could indicate a lot of problems other than thyroid and a TSH test will determine if thyroid really is the cause of your symptoms. Normal test range of TSH is between 0.4 and 4.0 milli-international units of hormone per litre of blood (Miu/L). Lower TSH levels indicate hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) or decreased production of TSH due to an underlying condition. Higher TSH values indicate hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) or thyroid tumour. Results above or below the normal range will need T4 and T3 tests to confirm thyroid.

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    FT4 test

    Your thyroid produces a hormone, thyroxine, which is known as T4. This hormone plays a role in several of your body’s functions, including growth and metabolism. Your doctor will often order a T4 if a thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) test has come back with abnormal results and your doctor wants further insight into what could be wrong with your thyroid. They will collect your blood into a tube or vial and send it to a lab for testing. Normal results are generally from 4.5 to 11.2 mcg/dL (micrograms per deciliter).

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    FT3 test

    To diagnose hyperthyroidism and determine its severity, T3 test is done. Just as FT4, levels of FT3 are also determined in the free or unbound state. Both T3 and T4 hormones are circulated in the blood attached to a carrier protein. However, bound hormone molecules cannot be used by the cells. Only the ones that freely circulate in the blood or are in the unbound state can be taken up by the cells. Therefore, free thyroxine in the blood is an accurate measure of hormone responsible for activities carried out by the cells. The normal range of T3 is between 3.5 to 7.8 pmoL/litres.

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    Results based on TSH, T3 and T4

    TSH levels above than normal along with low FT4 levels indicate hypothyroidism or under-activity of the thyroid gland. TSH levels lower than the normal range, along with high FT4 levels and FT3 levels indicate hyperthyroidism or over-activity of the thyroid gland. Testing antibodies is usually recommended to people with a family history of thyroid or to people with an autoimmune disease like rheumatoid arthritis. These antibody tests help to find out if your body produces auto-antibodies (antibodies against self-cells) against the thyroid gland.

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    TPO-Microsomal antibody

    Also known as Antithyroid Peroxidase Antibody, TPO-Microsomal antibodies are raised in a condition called Hashimoto’s disease or autoimmune thyroiditis. In this disorder, the cells of the thyroid gland are destroyed. The normal value for TPO Ab is anything less than 150 mUI/ml.

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    ATA-Thyroglobulin Antibody

    These antibodies are also found in Hashimoto’s disease. The normal range for this is lesser than 200 mUI/ml. The concentration of these antibodies indicates severity of the disease. Yoga can help you manage abovementioned symptoms of thyroid problems.

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    Preparing for a Thyroid Function Test

    You require little preparation for a thyroid function test. Your doctor should know if you’re taking any drugs because that may alter the test results and interpretation. You should also mention any X-ray tests that you may have taken and which have used a special contrast dye as this may contain iodine which can affect the results. Levels of thyroid hormones also change in pregnancy so tell your doctor if you are pregnant when the test is taken.

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