Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"How do you know if you have a thyroid problem?"
I have had a lot of different health issues over the last five years or so. My mother thinks it is because I have a problem with my thyroid. How would I know if I did? How can a doctor tell if I have a thyroid problem? I just think I get sick a lot that's all.
Thyroid disease can present with many different symptoms. An underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) can cause a person to experience fatigue and a sense of sluggishness, constipation, decreased concentration, weight gain and cold intolerance. An overactive thyroid (hyperthyroid), on the other hand, can cause a person to feel anxious and tremulous, experience palpitations (a sensation of the heart racing), diarrhea, weight loss, and heat intolerance. Fortunately, there is an accurate and readily-available blood test that your doctor can use to measure your Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH). TSH is released by the pituitary gland, and it tells the thyroid gland to secrete more thyroid hormone (T4 and T3, which can also be measured in the blood). Your doctor can interpret these blood tests to determine if your thyroid gland is hypo- or hyper-active. If a diagnosis of thyroid dysfunction is made, your doctor can then use additional blood tests or imaging (such as ultrasound) to determine the cause of the dysfunction. If you have any concerns at all about your health, it is advisable that you seek out the help of your primary care physician. A thorough history and physical exam, with additional blood work or imaging if needed, can help you come up with a diagnosis.
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