IPSA Medical’s thyroid function blood tests

A Thyroid Function Test can help check how the thyroid gland is working. It can also be used to monitor how the disorder is responding to treatment.

Your thyroid gland is at the base of your neck and it is responsible for producing a hormone called thyroxine. Malfunctions in the thyroid gland can occur either because it is producing too much (hypothyroidism) or too little thyroxine (hyperthyroidism).

An imbalance in the thyroxine hormone can be caused by different factors such as infections, pregnancy, autoimmune conditions, dietary deficiencies and so on.

Disorders of the thyroid gland are quite common and can have serious consequences, but these are very manageable, so detecting these disorders is of paramount importance.

Who is at risk?

Both men and women can have an underactive thyroid, although it’s more common in women. Children can also develop an underactive thyroid and some babies are born with it.

An overactive thyroid can affect anyone, but it’s about 10 times more common in women than men and it typically starts between 20 and 40 years of age.

You may be at further risk of thyroid complications if you are a woman who:

• Is pregnant

• Is trying to get pregnant

• Has recently given birth

• Has been taking medication known to cause a reduction in thyroid hormones, e.g. amiodarone or lithium

What are the symptoms?

Dependent on the severity of the hormone deficiency, problems develop slowly, often over a number of years.

At first, you may barely notice the symptoms, or you may simply attribute them to getting older. But as your metabolism continues to slow, you may develop more-obvious problems.

Signs of low thyroxine levels include:

• fatigue

• increased blood cholesterol level

• swelling in the joints

• swelling in the neck

• muscle aches and stiffness

• tiredness

• weight gain

• dry skin

• hair loss

Signs of high thyroxine levels include:

• sweats

• tachycardia

• anxiety

• irritability

• swelling in the neck

• diarrhoea

• palpitations

• weight loss

• mood swings

What are the risks?

While symptoms may not necessarily be definitive of a thyroid disorder, if you think you may have a problem, it’s imperative that it is diagnosed imminently.

Thyroid conditions can cause clogging of the arteries and could possibly lead to serious heart-related problems, such as angina and a heart attack.

How can it be treated?

An underactive thyroid can often be successfully treated by taking daily hormone tablets to replace the hormones your thyroid isn’t making. An underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) is usually treated by taking daily hormone replacement tablets called levothyroxine. Levothyroxine replaces the thyroxine hormone, which your thyroid doesn’t make enough of.

The main treatments for an overactive thyroid include medication, radiation treatment or occasionally surgery is recommended.

A simple blood test to check your thyroid’s hormone levels is all that’s needed to find out if you have abnormal thyroid function. The information on this page is just a guide. Your IPSA Medical specialist can answer any queries you might have and guide you, step-by-step, through the process suitable to your individual needs.

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It is often quite difficult to book appointments with your NHS GP at a time that suits you. Your symptoms might have already faded, or you might have recovered by the time of your NHS GP appointment.

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