What is Underactive thyroid?

Underactive thyroid is a condition that occurs when the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormones. This condition is called hypothyroidism. Underactive thyroid is very common.

You may be born with underactive thyroid. It can also develop as a result of thyroid gland surgery or radiation treatment.

Why do I need to get my thyroid checked?

Your doctor may order a thyroid function test if you have symptoms of underactive thyroid such as:

  • Feeling cold
  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Constipation
  • Muscle weakness
  • Joint pain
  • Puffy face, especially in women

In some cases, your doctor may ask you to have a thyroid function test if you have symptoms of other conditions that can affect your thyroid, such as:

  • Graves’ disease, a condition that causes your thyroid to become overactive and overproduce thyroid hormones
  • Thyroiditis, an inflammation of the thyroid gland
  • Thyroid nodules, lumps of tissue on your thyroid gland that can be cancerous

What does a thyroid function test measure?

A thyroid function test measures the amount of thyroid hormones in your blood. It can also tell if your thyroid is overactive or underactive.

Thyroid function tests are used to diagnose and monitor a thyroid condition. They’re also used to see how well treatment is working.

Thyroid hormones are a group of hormones that help your body use energy. Thyroid hormones can be either active or inactive. Thyroid hormones that are not active are called “free” hormones.

When your body needs more energy, your body releases thyroid hormones into your bloodstream. These hormones help your cells use energy.

If your thyroid gland is not producing enough thyroid hormones, your cells may not be able to use energy properly. This can lead to a variety of health conditions.

A thyroid function test may also be used to check if you have another condition that affects your thyroid gland.

How do I prepare for my thyroid function test?

Before your thyroid function tests, your doctor will tell you what to do.

  • Tell your doctor about all medicines you take, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
  • Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. They may ask you to stop taking certain medicines before your thyroid function tests.
  • Tell your doctor if you have a history of heart disease, kidney disease, or liver disease.

What can I expect during a thyroid function check?

Your doctor will use a blood sample to measure your thyroid hormones. You may need to share a blood sample with your doctor. This will help them make sure your blood sample is as clean as possible.

If needed, your doctor will give you a local anesthetic to numb the area of your throat where blood is suctioned from your throat. They will put a needle into your throat to draw blood.

Your doctor will draw blood from a vein in your arm. They’ll use a needle to take a small amount of blood from this vein. They’ll then send the blood to a lab for analysis.

What happens after I get my blood drawn?

Your doctor will send your blood sample to the lab. It may take a few days to get the results. Your doctor should send you the results of your thyroid function tests within 2 weeks.

If your results are normal, your doctor will likely not recommend any changes to your treatment plan.

If your results are abnormal, your doctor will discuss the results with you. They may recommend further tests or treatment.

What are the risks of having a thyroid function check?

A thyroid function check is a safe procedure. It shouldn’t cause you any pain.

Risks associated with a thyroid function check include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Cough
  • Trouble swallowing

What do my test results mean?

If your results are normal, your thyroid is working properly.

If your results show that your thyroid is not functioning properly, your doctor will discuss them with you. They may recommend treatment.

Having too much or too little thyroid hormone can make your symptoms worse. If your symptoms get worse or don’t get better with treatment, your doctor may suggest that you have a thyroid function check again.

What do I do after my test results come back?

Your doctor will discuss your test results with you. They may recommend more tests or treatment.

When should I call my doctor?

If you have symptoms of underactive thyroid, you should call your doctor. They may recommend further tests or treatment.

Key points about a thyroid function check

  • A thyroid function check measures your thyroid hormone levels. It can also tell if your thyroid is overactive or underactive.
  • A thyroid hormone test is also called a T4 or TSH test.
  • A thyroid hormone test can help your doctor diagnose a thyroid problem. It can also help to monitor the health of your thyroid.

Next steps

  • Thyroid Function Tests
  • Graves’ Disease

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