Currently, approximately 30 million Americans suffer with a thyroid disorder. As many as half, go undiagnosed and untreated, however. Because many individuals don’t know they have a medical condition, or mistake certain symptoms for age-related disorders, they continue to struggle. And while men do get thyroid disorders, ten times as many women are afflicted with a thyroid-related condition.
What is the thyroid?
The thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland located in front of the windpipe and responsible for the production of hormones, thyroxine (T4), triiodothyronine (T3), and calcitonin.
What does the thyroid do?
The thyroid produces thyroid hormone (TH) that affects how the body uses energy, regulating temperature, metabolism, and heartbeat.
What symptoms may indicate a thyroid disorder?
- Increased weight
- Weight loss
- Sensitivity to cold
- Muscle pain
- Joint pain
- Alteration in taste buds
- Increased/decreased appetite
- Pale dry skin
- Feeling jittery
- Brain fog
- Thinning Hair
- High blood pressure/cholesterol
- Hoarse voice
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Sleeping too much
- Infertility (women)
- Change in menstrual periods
- Low libido
Types of Thyroid Disorders
- Hyperthyroidism is indicated when thyroid hormone levels are too high.
- Graves’ disease is the most common form of hyperthyroidism
- Hypothyroidism may be present when thyroid hormone levels are too low.
- Hashimoto’s disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism. Thyroid nodules or thyroid cancer may also be caused from Hashimoto’s disease.
What thyroid tests can I take?
The following blood tests are available to help measure thyroid function:
- Thyroid Panel
- T3 Free (FT3)
- T4 Free (FT4)
- T4 Total
- Anti-Thyroglobulin Ab
- Anti-TPO Ab
- Thyroxine-Binding Globulin (TBG)
Thyroid Tests Defined
TSH Test—This test is usually ordered first to determine the current blood concentration of T4 and T3. TSH is created in the pituitary gland and tells the thyroid how much T4 and T3 to make.
T4 Test (Free or Total)—This test measures the amount of thyroxine (T4) found in the blood.
T3 Test—T3 tests indicate triiodothyronine levels in the bloodstream.
Thyroid Antibody Test—This test checks for thyroid antibodies in the blood.
Thyroglobulin—This test is generally only used for individuals who have undergone thyroid cancer surgery to monitor patients after treatment.
Thyroxine-binding globulin (TBG)—This tests for levels of the glycoprotein, TBG made by the liver, which binds both T4 and T3. Several diseases and medical conditions can be associated with TBG levels. Pregnancy, and the use of oral contraceptives also affect this glycoprotein.
What Test Results Mean
TSH Test—High levels of TSH may indicate an underactive thyroid, or hypothyroidism. Because the thyroid can’t make enough hormone the pituitary gland makes and releases too much thyroid-stimulating hormone.
Low TSH levels could indicate hyperthyroidism. Because the thyroid produces an overabundance of thyroid hormone, the pituitary gland makes less thyroid-stimulating hormone.
T4 Test—High levels of T4 may indicate hyperthyroidism. Low levels of T4 may be a sign of hypothyroidism.
T3 Test—High levels of T3 may indicate hyperthyroidism.
Thyroid Antibody Test—The presence of thyroid antibodies in the blood may indicate that the body’s own immune system has attacked the thyroid gland.
Common Causes of Thyroid Disorders
- Autoimmune diseases
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Environmental toxins
Treatment Options for Thyroid Disorders
Treatment for thyroid disorders may include:
- Oral medications
- Radioactive iodine treatment
- Surgical removal of benign nodules or cancer
- Surgical removal of thyroid gland
Natural support may also include a thyroid/adrenal supplement, a diet fortified with sea vegetables, regular exercise, and cutting out refined carbohydrates. Minerals iodine, selenium and zinc also support thyroid health, as well as vitamins A, B, C, and D. Reducing stress helps relieve some thyroid-related symptoms as well.
Based on your thyroid assessment and symptoms, you may be suffering from a thyroid disorder.
See a healthcare practitioner to discuss symptoms and possible testing, or order tests on your own and share results with your doctor.
1“Thinking About Your Thyroid.” National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 19 July 2017, newsinhealth.nih.gov/2015/09/thinking-about-your-thyroid.
2“Thyroid Tests.” National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1 May 2017, www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diagnostic-tests/thyroid.
A deficiency of thyroid hormones can affect virtually all body functions. The severity of symptoms in adults ranges from mild and barely detectable to severe and very serious. It is estimated that between 10-25 per cent of people suffer from some degree of hypothyroidism, many of whom are undiagnosed.
Because many symptoms of underactive thyroid are similar to those of menopause, they can easily be confused or misinterpreted. Symptoms of underactive thyroid include fatigue, especially on waking, feeling cold easily, dry skin, depression, muscle and joint weakness and stiffness, constipation, general slowness and possible weight gain.
Complete the questionnaire below by checking one box for each symptom. Then use our chart at the bottom of the questionnaire to interpret your results: