Typically, if thyroid dysfunction is suspected, your GP will order a blood test called a TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone). This is a hormone that is secreted by the pituitary gland that indirectly tells us how the thyroid is functioning. If this test is normal, no further blood testing is done by conventional medical standards.
There are times that a patient will have very clear hypothyroid symptoms and display a normal TSH value, yet may have elevated thyroid antibody levels, or less frequently, show abnormal levels of free T4 (FT4) or free T3 (FT3). T4 (thyroxine) and T3 (triiodothyronine) are hormones that are directly produced by the thyroid gland.
The thyroid panel that I do can also be done by your GP, however, if TSH levels are normal, because of Canadian government regulations, this restricts your GP from ordering a complete thyroid panel for your health.
The thyroid panel is a blood test that tests for levels of TSH, FT4, FT3 and/or Thyroid Microsomal Antibodies. I do this test to ensure that a clinical thyroid condition is not at issue, or to monitor thyroid levels during treatment with the use of desiccated thyroid.
However, when symptoms resembling thyroid dysfunction persist, subclinical thyroid problems do occur even when all blood tests come back normal, including the thyroid panel. Thyroid hormones help regulate heart rate, body temperature, blood pressure, and weight. They can also increase energy, help food move through the gastrointestinal tract and increase perspiration. Because the effects of these particular hormones are so far-reaching, a lack of thyroid hormone can result in a number of health conditions including:
- cold body temperature
- arthritis and muscle cramps
- weight gain
- poor reflexes
- hair falling out