Hypothyroidism Diagnosis and Testing
Introduction to Diagnosing HypothyroidismHypothyroidism is a very common disease. A research study showed that there is an estimated 10% of Americans who have undiagnosed thyroid diseases. Hypothyroidism is a hereditary disease passed on for many generations. Your son or daughter may not get it, but your grandson or granddaughter probably will.
List Of Symptoms For Diagnosing HypothyroidismHypothyroidism is an endocrine disorder that decreases the thyroid hormones of the body. If you want to find out if you have the disease or not, here is a list of the common symptoms of hypothyroidism:
- Abnormal menstrual cycles
- Coarse and dry hair
- Cold intolerance
- Decreased libido
- Dry and pale skin
- Dry and rough skin
- Hair loss
- Memory loss
- Muscle weakness and cramps
- Weight gain
More symptoms and information are at the Hypothyroidism Symptoms page.
Family History For Hypothyroidism DiagnosisHypothyroidism is a hereditary disease that can run in a family for many generations. Hypothyroidism can also go undetected for years. Some people who have this condition may be asymptomatic (showing no symptoms) at first. Some people even find out that they have hypothyroidism by accident. Once you learn that your parents or your grandparents or any member in your family have it, you should have yourself examined by a doctor.
Medical History For Hypothyroidism DiagnosisA physician can better assess you if you provide him a complete medical history. This will include:
- Previous illness - a complete list of the diseases that you have acquired in the past, including the time when you that you have contracted such illnesses.
- Your lifestyle - this will pertain to the amount of caffeine and alcohol that you ingest every day. If you are a smoker, then you should also indicate how many packs you consume on a daily basis. Your sexual practices and habits should also be discussed with your physician.
- Stress level - stress plays a very important role in diagnosing hypothyroidism. Since stress alters the hormonal balance in your body, analyzing the average level of stress that you experience in your day to day life can help the physician a great deal.
- Medication - some medicines have an effect on a person's hormonal balance. Some medications can even cause hypothyroidism. Such medications have ingredients like Lithium, Amiodarone, Sulfonamides, Iodine, and other anticonvulsants, or medicines that prevents seizure attacks.
- Iodine intake - a person's diet plays a vital role in the maintenance of the hormonal balance of his body. Tell your doctor what you eat most of the time. If your diet includes seafood at least a few times a week, then there's a big chance you don't have hypothyroidism. More information is at the Hypothyroidism and Diet page and the Hypothyroidism and Iodine page.
Physical Examination For Hypothyroidism DiagnosisUpon your first visit to the doctor, a complete physical check-up is performed to assess if you have hypothyroidism or other underlying conditions. Your vital signs will be drawn, which includes your heart rate, respiration, and blood pressure. Afterwards, your face and extremities will be examined for signs of edema or swelling.
Your skin, nails and hair will also be examined. People with hypothyroidism may develop hair loss and they have a cool and dry skin.
Later on, your nerve function will be checked. This is usually done by tapping the elbow or knee with a small rubber hammer. People with severe hypothyroidism often have slow reflexes, so this is done to check how quick they react.
When it comes to examining your thyroid gland, the doctor will feel your outer neck with his hands to see if there are changes to your thyroid glands. However, a normal thyroid does not rule out the presence of hypothyroidism. If the doctor doesn't feel any mass around your neck area but you are experiencing other symptoms of the disease, further laboratory tests will be required.
Laboratory Tests For Hypothyroidism DiagnosisThyroid function tests are essential and are the determining factors in finding out if you have inherited the disease or not. These tests will include TSH and T4 count. An increase in both of these hormones in your body means you have hyperthyroidism and a decrease will mean you have hypothyroidism.
Below is the normal range of the hormones:
|TSH||0.5 - 5.5 u/mL|
|T4||4.5 - 12.5 u/mL|
Both the TSH and T4 tests are drawn by blood extraction. The blood samples are processed and are later on interpreted by your doctor to check whether or not the deviations from the normal range are significant to your health.
Thyroid Antibodies Test For Hypothyroidism DiagnosisGetting a positive result in the thyroid antibodies test usually means that your thyroid gland is in the process of having an autoimmune failure. What does this mean? Your doctor will not immediately prescribe medications for the thyroid gland. This will only warrant constant monitoring to check if there is an unnecessary spike in your results. Your doctor will prescribe treatments once your TSH and T4 change for the worse.
Basal Body Temperature For Hypothyroidism DiagnosisHaving a normal regulation in your body temperature is very important to regulate enzyme functions in our body. Monitoring of the body's temperature is done to find out if your body is experiencing some changes in hormone levels. Here is how you should be taking this simple task:
- Make use of a digital thermometer.
- Take your temperature before sleeping at night and upon waking up in the morning.
- Don't forget to take the temperature from both your mouth and armpit.
- Record the temperature and be alert for significant changes.