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How To Know If Your Thyroid Is Working Properly With Blood Tests

 
 

 

A recent study showed that nearly 13 million Americans may be unaware of and undiagnosed for their thyroid conditions. Are you one of them? Another study showed that if you are a pregnant woman and you have a low thyroid your child's IQ will be affected. Yet another recent study showed that if you an elderly woman with thyroid problems you will have an increased risk of heart disease

The big myth that persists regarding thyroid diagnosis is that an elevated TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) level is always required before a diagnosis of hypothyroidism can be made. Normally, the pituitary gland will secrete TSH in response to a low thyroid hormone level. Thus an elevated TSH level would typically suggest an underactive thyroid.

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Click here to read my interview with Mary Shomon, the Thyroid guide from About.com.

Your Doctor Does Not Likely Understand How To Interpret Your Tests Properly

Thyroid function tests have always presented doctors with difficulties in their interpretation. Laboratory testing is often misleading due to the complexity and inherent shortcomings of the tests themselves. Many doctors not having an adequate understanding of what the test results mean, will often make incorrect assumptions based on them or interpret them too strictly. A narrow interpretation of thyroid function testing leads to many people not being treated for subclinical hypothyroidism.

Old Laboratory Tests Unreliable

Most all older thyroid function panels include the following:

  • Total T4
  • T3 Uptake and
  • Free Thyroxine Index (FTI).

These tests should be abandoned because they are unreliable as gauges of thyroid function. The most common traditional way to diagnose hypothyroidism is with a TSH that is elevated beyond the normal reference range. For most labs, this is about 4.0 to 4.5. This is thought to reflect the pituitary's sensing of inadequate thyroid hormone levels in the blood which would be consistent with hypothyroidism. There is no question that this will diagnose hypothyroidism, but it is far too insensitive a measure, and the vast majority of patients who have hypothyroidism will be missed.

Basal Body Temperature

Basal body temperature popularized by the late Broda Barnes, M.D. He found the clinical symptoms and the body temperature to be more reliable than the standard laboratory tests was provided. This is clearly better than using the standard tests. However there are problems with using body temperature.

  • Sleeping under electric blankets or water beds falsely raise temperature
  • Sensitive and accurate thermometer required
  • Inconvenient and many people will not do (poor compliance)

New and More Accurate Way To Check for Hypothyroidism

This revised method of diagnosing and treating hypothyroidism seems superior to the temperature regulation method promoted by Broda Barnes and many natural medicine physicians. Most patients continue to have classic hypothyroid symptoms because excessive reliance is placed on the TSH. This test is a highly-accurate measure of TSH but not of the height of thyroid hormone levels.

New Range for TSH to Diagnose Hypothyroidism

The basic problem that traditional medicine has with diagnosing hypothyroidism is the so-called "normal range" of TSH is far too high: Many patients with TSH's of greater than 2.0 (not 4.5) have classic symptoms and signs of hypothyroidism (see below).

  • So, if your TSH is above 2.0 there is a strong chance your thyroid gland is not working properly.

Free Thyroid Hormone Levels

One can also use the Free T3 and Free T4 and TSH levels to help one identify how well the thyroid gland is working. Free T3 and Free T4 levels are the only accurate measure of the actual active thyroid hormone levels in the blood.

When one uses free hormone levels one will find that it is relatively common to find the Free T4 and Free T3 hormone levels below normal when TSH is in its normal range, even in the low end of its normal range. When patients with these lab values are treated, one typically finds tremendous improvement in the patient, and a reduction of the classic hypothyroid symptoms.

Secondary or Tertiary Hypothyroidism

There are a significant number of individuals who have a TSH even below the new 1.5 reference range mentioned above, but their Free T3 (and possibly the Free T4 as well) will be below normal. These are cases of secondary or tertiary hypothyroidism, so, TSH alone is not an accurate test of all forms of hypothyroidism, only primary hypothyroidism.

Symptoms of Low Thyroid

  • The most common is fatigue.
  • Skin can become dry, cold, rough and scaly.
  • Hair becomes coarse, brittle and grows slowly or may fall out excessively.
  • Sensitivity to cold with feelings of being chilly in rooms of normal temperature.
  • Difficult for a person to sweat and their perspiration may be decreased or even absent even during heavy exercise and hot weather.
  • Constipation that is resistant to magnesium supplementation and other mild laxatives is also another common symptom.
  • Difficulty in losing weight despite rigid adherence to a low grain diet seems to be a common finding especially in women.
  • Depression and muscle weakness are other common symptoms.

Treatment of Hypothyroidism

You can click here for an article on how you can treat your thyroid problem with natural hormone therapy.

If you find this information helpful click here to subscribe to the FREE weekly newsletter so you will get all the updates.

If you are interested in a more comprehensive articles directed towards health care professionals click here. Also available is an excellent text book article on thyroid testing for those with more technical interests.

Living Well With Hypothyroidism

Mary Shomon is the www.about.com thyroid expert. Her $11 352 page book published in March of 2000 is one of the most cost effective and valuable resources that you could own on this subject. If you have thyroid disease this book should be in your library.

Click here to Purchase: Living Well With Hypothyroidism

The Los Angeles Times wrote: March 27, 2000
"Hypothyroidism is a common, very treatable disorder that is also poorly managed by doctors. In this first-rate book by Mary Shomon...the disorder, its myths, and medicine's successes and failures at dealing with it are thoroughly examined. This is not a book that rehashes old facts on thyroid disease. Shomon instead challenges patients and their doctors to look deeper and try harder to resolve the complicated symptoms of hypothyroidism...In a fascinating chapter, Shomon, who also has a Web site and an online newsletter about the disease, explores recent evidence that the addition of the thyroid hormone T3 to the standard T4 (levothyroxine) may help some people feel better. In addition, the section on babies born with hypothyroidism, although brief, has the best advice on how to give medication to an infant that I've seen. As Shomon writes: 'or years, thyroid problems have been downplayed, misunderstood and portrayed as unimportant.' With her advocacy, perhaps no more." -- Shari Roan

Dr. John Lowe, author of "Speeding Up to Normal" wrote:

Mary Shomon is the harbinger of the latest scientifically-sound information on hypothyroidism. With keen intellect, loyalty to truth, and plain language, she sweeps away the medical dogma that bars millions of patients from rational thyroid hormone therapies. In this book, she describes practical thyroid therapies that can improve patients' health and extend their lives. The book is vital for hypothyroid patients who want to get well, and for physicians who want to help them do so.

 

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