Thyroid diseasthyroid glande can cause several different health conditions and symptoms that at first may seem unrelated. Symptoms can include unexplained weight loss or weight gain, hair loss, heart arrhythmia, depression, and fatigue. Persons with this disease may also experience uncontrollable shaking in their hands (like you've had one too many cups of coffee), weakness, and a feeling of always being cold. Symptoms in women can include irregular menstruation and infertility.

There are several tests to help diagnose a this condition. The most common and first test are the thyroid blood tests, which primarily checks for TSH, or Thyroid Stimulating Hormone levels. Being able understand your test results will help you communicate with your doctor about the best treatment for you. Since this is a simple blood test, there's nothing you need to do for as far as preparing for it.

What is TSH?

TSH is the hormone produced by the pituitary gland that basically tells the thyroid how much hormone to produce. More TSH tells the thyroid gland to produce more hormones. Less TSH tells the thyroid gland to produce fewer hormones.

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What a Low TSH Thyroid Blood Test Result Indicates

Low levels of TSH indicate the pituitary gland is producing low amounts of TSH in an attempt to tell the thyroid gland to slow down. Persons with too little TSH may have an overactive thyroid gland that is producing too much thyroid hormone. Low TSH may indicate hyperthyroidism.

What a High TSH Result Indicates

With a  high TSH result,  the pituitary gland is producing high amounts of TSH to stimulate the gland to make more hormones. Persons with too much TSH may have an underactive thyroid gland that is not producing enough hormone. High TSH may indicate hypothyroidism.

Can the Thyroid Test Results Produce False Results?

Understand there can be other causes of abnormal thyroid blood test results. Some medications, foods (such as soy), and pregnancy can affect this test. If you are taking soy supplements, eat a lot of soy, or are pregnant, discuss with your doctor how these can affect your test results. Your doctor may want to run follow up tests to confirm an abnormality.

What to Do if Your Thyroid Test Results are Abnormal

Patients with abnormal TSH results should talk to their doctor about any medications they may be taking or if their diets are high in calcium or soy. If diet or medications bring the test results into question, then your doctor may repeat the test or order a more detail blood panel test.

Patients should continue to be treated by their doctor if they have abnormal blood test results. Left untreated, thyroid disease can cause serious health problems.  Pregnant women with a history of abnormal thyroid tests or family history of this disease should also be carefully monitored by their doctor throughout the pregnancy and after pregnancy. With regular monitoring and proper treatment, thyroid disease can be a relatively benign condition for many patients. And when treated properly, does usually prevent women from getting pregnant or having healthy children.