The thyroid gland plays a crucial role in regulating body metabolism by producing hormones. Blood tests are now widely available to assess thyroid hormone levels, helping determine whether the gland is functioning normally, overactively, or underactively.
Thyroid Gland and Hormones
Located in the lower neck, the thyroid gland resembles a butterfly and produces vital hormones using iodine from the diet. The primary hormones are thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), with T3 being the most biologically active. T4 is converted into T3, influencing cellular metabolism once released into the bloodstream.
Normal Thyroid Hormone Levels
Thyroid regulation involves the pituitary gland in the brain, responding to signals from the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus releases thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH), prompting the pituitary to release thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). TSH signals the thyroid to release T4 and T3. Disruptions at any level may lead to thyroid hormone deficiency (hypothyroidism) or excess (hyperthyroidism).
Common thyroid disorders encompass thyroid nodules, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, hyperparathyroidism, thyroid cancer, thyroiditis, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, and Graves’ disease.
Diagnosis of Thyroid Problems
Blood tests help diagnose hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, but further investigation is necessary to identify the root cause. Additional tests may include thyroid antibodies, nuclear medicine thyroid scanning, ultrasound of the thyroid gland, or others. For suspected thyroid cancer requiring surgery, a thyroglobulin blood test may be performed.
Thyroglobulin Blood Test
- Measures a protein produced exclusively by thyroid cells.
- Detectable or elevated levels indicate thyroid cell activity, serving as a tumor marker.
- After total thyroidectomy for cancer, levels should become undetectable; persistent detectability may suggest residual thyroid tissue or metastatic disease.
- A rise in levels after an initial undetectable period might indicate cancer recurrence.
Understanding thyroid blood tests, interpreting results, and considering additional factors are crucial for accurate diagnosis and effective management of thyroid disorders. Regular monitoring and collaboration with healthcare professionals ensure comprehensive thyroid health assessment.
National Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases Information Service (NEMDIS).