Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) is Not the Only Test: Diagnosing low thyroid can often be difficult because most physicians only use one test, the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). TSH is not an accurate test for low thyroid or hypothyroidism; it usually comes back as a normal reading. TSH also does not rule out hypothyroidism. A more complete thyroid panel testing should include free T3, free T4, possibly TPO antibodies and reverse T3.
When attempting to diagnose hypothyroidism, an effective method is to measure the basal body temperature at home using a mercury thermometer. All that is needed is to place the thermometer under the arm for five minutes before getting out of bed. Menstruating women should start on day two of their period. Monitor and record the temperature for a week. Anyone who has an average temperature of less than 97.6 could be suffering from low thyroid.
The Function of the Thyroid Gland: A healthy thyroid gland produces hormones and proteins and determines how sensitive the body is to other hormones. The thyroid controls the metabolic rate, or how quickly the body burns energy. All of the body’s cells are dependent on the hormones produced by the thyroid to regulate their metabolism. An overactive thyroid can cause the body to run fast and hot; an under active thyroid can cause the body to run slow and cold.
Symptoms of a Low Thyroid: Some of the early symptoms of hypothyroidism or under active thyroid, include fatigue, depression, paleness, dry and itchy skin, weight gain, water retention, and a low heart rate (less than sixty beats per minute). Some of the late symptoms may include low basal body temperature, dry puffy skin, abnormal menstrual cycles, slow speech and a hoarse, breaking voice. Some of the less common symptoms may include migraine headaches, impaired memory, anxiety, panic attacks, difficulty swallowing, irritability, or anemia.
One out of every twenty women develops postpartum thyroiditis after pregnancy, but usually it will go away on its own in one to four months. Any of those symptoms would require that a physician be seen so that testing could be done and a diagnosis can be made. Some thyroid disorders may be inherited and studies are being done to determine the biology of the disorders, Charles P. Venditti, M.D., Ph.D is doing one such study.
Treatment for Low Thyroid is Available: For most people the easiest and the most effective treatment for hypothyroidism is to take a thyroid hormone pill one time a day. The best time to take the pill is in the morning. The pill is a synthetic replacement for the T4 that the normal thyroid gland produces. The correct dosage will need to be determined by trial and error, with the levels being tested monthly until a proper level is established. After that time, the medication will need to be checked annually. The doctor will determine how often it will be checked. It is important that if going to multiple doctors, they are all aware of the thyroid treatment.