Iodine is an essential element of human life. It’s used in the production of thyroid hormone and in the manufacture of vitamins and minerals.
Iodine has been used since ancient times to treat and prevent goiter caused by damage to the thyroid gland.
With a CT scan, iodine is used to make thin slices of the body that are then used to create detailed pictures of bone, organs, and soft tissues.
Many people eat iodine-rich foods, such as:
These foods are also high in other nutrients, such as:
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin B12
These nutrients are important for the body’s use of iodine.
Iodine deficiency occurs when the body does not have enough iodine in the diet. Symptoms of iodine deficiency include:
- Brittle hair
- Muscle weakness
- Delayed growth in children
- Impaired cognition
What is a thyroid scan?
A thyroid scan is an imaging test that creates detailed pictures of the thyroid gland.
Your doctor may refer to this test as a “thyroid ultrasound” or “thyroid scan.”
The test is performed using a portable ultrasound machine that produces sound waves. A computer in the machine then uses the sound waves to create an image of the thyroid gland.
This test can help your doctor determine if your thyroid gland is functioning normally.
The test is often used to diagnose or monitor:
- Thyroid nodules
- Thyroid cancer
- Thyroid dysfunction
- Thyroid nodules that are not cancerous
In addition, a thyroid scan can help your doctor determine if you have low thyroid hormone levels.
How do I prepare for a thyroid scan?
Before your test, it’s important to tell your doctor about any allergies you may have.
Tell your doctor about these allergies, and about any other medications, supplements, or illegal drugs you take.
These may interfere with the test or your results.
You should also tell your doctor about any food or drinks that contain iodine.
You may be asked to stop eating or drinking for at least an hour before your test.
You may also want to tell your doctor about any medications you’re taking for any health conditions, including:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
What happens during a thyroid scan?
A doctor will ask you to remove your clothing and put on a hospital gown.
They will then numb your neck with a topical anesthetic.
The doctor will then insert a catheter into your neck, through which they will inject a contrast dye into your bloodstream.
The dye helps produce clearer images on the ultrasound machine.
A thyroid scan takes approximately 30 minutes.
What do my test results mean?
Your test results will show if your thyroid gland is functioning normally.
Normal results indicate that all of the thyroid’s main glands are functioning normally.
Abnormal results mean that at least one of the thyroid’s main glands is not functioning normally.
In addition, abnormal test results may also indicate the presence of thyroid nodules.
Thyroid nodules are masses of abnormal thyroid tissue that can develop along the path of the thyroid gland.
These nodules can be benign or malignant, and they can develop in different areas of the thyroid gland.
- Benign thyroid nodules generally do not grow or spread.
- Malignant thyroid nodules can cause the thyroid gland to become enlarged and grow faster.
How do I understand my test results?
Your doctor will explain your test results to you and let you know what they mean.
The most common symptoms of thyroid dysfunction include:
- Weight loss
- Feeling cold or numb on one side of the body
- Irritability or nervousness
- Rapid heartbeat
- Difficulty swallowing
In some cases, thyroid nodules can cause other symptoms, such as:
- Hoarseness or a change in the way that you speak
- Swallowing problems
- Changes in your voice
Your doctor may also refer to your thyroid scan results as “normal” or “abnormal.”
In some cases, they may also refer to “toxic” or “hyperthyroid” results.
In this case, your doctor may want to monitor you for:
- Increased heart rate
How do I interpret my results?
Results of a thyroid scan are not an exact diagnosis.
Your doctor will explain the results of your study and let you know what they mean.
Your doctor may also refer to your test results as “normal” or “abnormal.”
Results can also be classified as “nonfunctioning” or “functioning.”
Nonfunctioning results mean that the thyroid gland is not functioning normally.
Functioning results mean that one or more of the thyroid’s main glands are functioning normally.
In addition, these results can also indicate the presence of thyroid nodules.
In some cases, a thyroid scan may also help your doctor determine if you have low thyroid hormone levels.
Low thyroid hormone levels often cause symptoms, such as:
- Feeling tired
- Excess hair on the face and in the neck
- Skin changes in the appearance of the skin, such as a deepening of the skin of the face
- Weight gain
- Low blood pressure
Low thyroid hormone levels can also affect how your body processes other medications, such as:
- Blood thinners
Understanding your results
A thyroid scan can help your doctor diagnose thyroid disease.
Your doctor can use it to monitor the function of your thyroid and determine if you have low thyroid hormone levels.
A thyroid scan can also help your doctor determine if you have a thyroid nodule.
As a result, a thyroid scan can guide or help your doctor decide on the next steps for you.
If your thyroid scan results show that your thyroid gland is not functioning normally, your doctor may order further tests to look for thyroid nodules.
If your thyroid scan results show that you have a thyroid nodules, your doctor may order further tests to look for other thyroid conditions.
If your thyroid scan results show that your thyroid gland is functioning normally, but you have symptoms of low thyroid hormone levels, your doctor may need to refer you to a specialist for further testing.
What is the long-term outlook for people with abnormal thyroid results?
In some cases, abnormal test results can indicate thyroid disease.
However, thyroid scans can also help your doctor determine the next steps for you.
If you have abnormal results, your doctor may refer you to a specialist for further testing.
How do I prepare for my thyroid scan?
Your doctor will explain the details of the thyroid scan to you.
They may ask you to sign an informed consent form.
This form will allow your doctor to monitor your health and any risks that come with the procedure.
Your doctor may also ask you about any medications you may be taking.
You may be asked to stop taking any medication not related to thyroid function for a certain length of time before the procedure.
You may be asked not to eat or drink before the procedure.
You may also be asked to avoid taking any over-the-counter medication, and to avoid taking any medication that contains paracetamol, ibuprofen, or aspirin.
What happens during my thyroid scan?
The thyroid scan will take about 15 minutes.
The test will be performed in a medical center or hospital.
Before the test, you’ll be asked to remove any clothing that could interfere with the scan.
You may also be asked to remove jewelry or any metal from your body.
You may also be asked to stop using or stop using any medication that may impact the test results.
You will be asked to lie down on a bed or on a table.
The technician will slide a transducer over your thyroid gland.
The transducer is a small, flat device that contains a camera and transmitter.
The camera will record an image of the thyroid.
The transducer will send images along thin wires to a computer.
The computer will then analyze the images and send a report back to the technician.
The report will be sent to your doctor.
The test will be repeated if needed.
What are the risks of a thyroid ultrasound scan?
A thyroid ultrasound scan is a safe procedure.
Rarely, radioactive iodine may be given to your body during a thyroid ultrasound scan.
However, this is only done in an emergency situation and only if other tests are not available.
What are the benefits of a thyroid ultrasound scan?
A thyroid ultrasound scan provides useful information on your thyroid gland.
It can help your doctor decide if you have thyroid disease, or if you have hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.
Your doctor can use the results of the scan to monitor your thyroid hormones.
It can also help your doctor determine if you have a thyroid nodules.
What are the possible complications of a thyroid ultrasound scan?
There are usually no risks associated with a thyroid ultrasound scan.
The ultrasound technician will use a precautionary approach to minimize any risks.
The technician will perform the scan in a way that does not put you at risk for exposure to radiation.
In addition, they will use special equipment to minimize any risks of exposure to X-rays.
The test will not expose you to any radiation.
You can expect to stay in the hospital for a short time.
In some instances, you may need to have an iodine injection or have a thyroid hormone supplement given to you.
In rare instances, a thyroid ultrasound scan may cause:
- Irregular heartbeats
- Irregular breathing
In some instances, a thyroid ultrasound scan may be repeated.
What to expect after my thyroid scan?
After your thyroid scan, you may need to have your thyroid gland checked again.
If you have a thyroid nodules, your doctor will likely recommend that you have further tests.
Your doctor will likely want to monitor your thyroid hormones, and may want to have you come back for a thyroid ultrasound scan every few years.
If you have abnormal results from a thyroid ultrasound scan, the results can help your doctor determine if you have thyroid disease or any other condition.
The scan can also help your doctor monitor your thyroid hormone levels.
Thyroid scan results can also help your doctor determine if you have a thyroid nodules, or if you have hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.
Ask your doctor about your thyroid scan results. They can help you decide what steps to take next.
Images by Freepik
Generated by AI