What is a TSH Test?
A thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) blood test is used to check for thyroid problems, such as hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism. TSH controls production of the 2 thyroid hormones: triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), which both regulate just about about every function in your body, from temperature, to mood, to metabolism
It works like this:
- Your hypothalamus produces a substancecalled TRH
- TRH triggers your pituitary gland to release TSH
- TSH tells the thyroid to make T3 and T4
A TSH test measures how much TSH is being released by your pituitary gland. Based on the lab results, you will be able to determine a possible underlying cause of a thyroid problem – such as whether your thyroid isn’t working (not producing T3/T4) or if it working too much (overproduction of T3/T4). Too much or too little TSH production are both primary symptoms of thyroid disease.
What if too little TSH is released?
If too little TSH is released by your pituitary gland, it indicates that your thyroid overactive (hyperthyroidism) because (in layman terms) your body senses too much T3/T4 in circulation and is trying to “put the breaks on” so to speak.
People with hyperthyroidism often have trouble putting on any weight, feel hot for no reason, and may struggle with heart palpitations or anxiety.
What if too much TSH is released?
If too much TSH is released by your pituitary gland, it indicates that your thyroid to be under-active (hypothyroidism) in producing T3 and T4 because (in layman terms) your body senses too little T3/T4 and is “shouting” at your thyroid to produce more.
People with hypothyroidism usually struggle with crippling lethargy, trouble stopping weight gain, hair loss, and often feeling cold for no reason.
Purpose of a TSH Test: Why Perform a TSH Test?
There are several reasons you would test TSH levels.
If you are wondering what is a TSH test, chances are you haven’t been diagnosed with thyroid disease (yet). If this is true, then the main reason you would consider testing for thyroid-stimulating hormone levels is to find out the underlying cause of an overactive or under-active thyroid.
If you have already been diagnosed, you may take this test to keep track of your treatment regime and make sure you are receiving the appropriate dose of medication.
A TSH test is generally done at the same time as a T3 lab test and T4 lab test for a full picture of how a thyroid is functioning.
Understand TSH TEST results
We discuss TSH test results here in more detail, but here are the important facts. The most important thing to understand is that the medical community is somewhat divided on how to interpret results. Here are the facts
- A TSH score of 1.0 uIU/ml – 2.0 uIU/ml is considered optimal and healthy
- Many physicians accept a range of .45 uIU/ml – 4.5 uIU/ml or .5 uIU/ml – 5.5 uIU/ml
- Functional medicine strongly disagree’s with these ranges, citing evidence that results outside of the optimal range indicate a less than healthy thyroid that is either at risk for thyroid disease or is subclinical (undiagnosed)
Different people will react differently to TSH levels, but we highly suggest that if you are experiencing symptoms of hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, combined with less than optimal TSH levels, that you seek out further thyroid testing and/or your medical practitioner.
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