Thyroid tests dont replace good clinical judgment, and shouldnt be used alone to confirm or refute a diagnostic impression, or dictate therapy. Many people arent receiving proper diagnosis or treatment for low thyroid because the decision to give medicine is based on the tyranny of the test. The truth about thyroid tests is the fact that they arent as good as they need to be. Patients that are sick due to low thyroid find it frustrating because their doctors dont understand their predicament.
Thyroid blood tests are used to evaluate symptoms of fatigue, depression, coldness, hair loss, headaches, PMS, and menstrual irregularities. The following is a quick overview of what blood tests to consider for thyroid evaluation. Any single test cant give the whole picture. The thyroid system is much more complex than most doctors are aware of. Each test only measures one aspect of a much larger whole. This is important to understand because if a test only measures one aspect, then perhaps the one that isnt measured may be the weak link in the chain of chemical reactions necessary for thyroid health.
If a screening test is performed on a patient, and it turns out thyroid symptoms are normal, additional thyroid tests should be ordered. With many patients, it will take several tests to diagnose correctly.
Total T4 and Free T4 are two separate tests that can help the doctor evaluate thyroid function. The total T4 test has been used for many years to help diagnose hyper- and hypothyroidism. It is a useful test but can be affected by the amount of protein available in the blood to bind to the hormone. For years, the T-4 test was considered the main indicator of whether or thyroid was high, low, or normal. The problem is that some people have a normal T-4 test, but arent doing well in terms of their energy (T-4 is normal, but not enough is being converted to T-3). The older screening test isnt as revealing as the newer developed T-3 tests.
Basic Thyroid Panel
T-3U (T-3 resin uptake test) and FTI (free thyroxine index) together with a T-4 test is a basic thyroid panel. These additional two tests are an inexpensive attempt so see if thyroid hormone levels and thyroid hormone binding protein in the blood stream are adequate.
Total T-3 Test
The T3 test is usually ordered following an abnormal TSH and T4 test. The Total T-3 test is newer than the T-3U but older than the Free T-3 test. It might be better than either. The Total T-3 measures the total amount of fast acting thyroid hormone in the blood stream. In addition to these tests, even more testing is often needed to provide a complete picture of thyroid function in mild hypothyroidism.
The TSH test is useful for helping diagnose thyroid disorders and to monitor treatment of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. TSH is the messenger chemical that instructs the thyroid gland to increase production of T-4 thyroid hormone (thyroxine). TSH is a test that measures the brain and pituitary satisfaction of the amount of thyroid hormone in the bloodstream. A high level of TSH means the brain and pituitary are asking for more thyroid function.
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