Technological developments in the last decade have made it possible to take a thyroid test at home.
In this article, I am going to tell you what you need to know before you make the decesion to take a thyroid test at home.
Dr. Dominic Rowley is the Dublin-based Medical Director for LetsGetChecked
It is important to note that those who are experiencing thyroid problems often notice signs and symptoms that can be attributed to everyday life.
These factors may include day to day stress, not getting enough sleep and over-indulging.
Let's take a look at everything you need to know from initial thyroid problems right up to taking the test at home.
- What Are Thyroid Problems?
- What Are The Symptoms Of Thyroid Problems?
- What Is The Difference Between Taking A Thyroid Test At Home Or At A Physician's Clinic?
- Are Home Thyroid Tests Accurate?
- How Do I Know If I Have A Thyroid Issue? : Andreea's Story
- Should You Take A Thyroid Test?
What Are Thyroid Problems?
Before we delve into the question of what thyroid problems are. Let's take a quick look at where the thyroid is and what is does.
Put simply, the thyroid gland is the powerhouse of all cell functions.
The thyroid gland is located in the base of the neck, just below the larynx. In men, the thyroid gland is located just below the Adam’s apple.
The thyroid gland is a butterfly shaped organ that makes up part of the endocrine system.
The endocrine system is defined as a collection of glands that produce hormones that may impact everything from your metabolism to your mood and sleep, sexual function, fertility, growth and development.
The endocrine system is a network within the body that secretes and sends hormones to tissues and organs.
As part of the endocrine system, the thyroid gland makes and stores hormones that help to regulate the body’s metabolism by converting oxygen and calories that we eat into the energy that we expend.
The role that the thyroid gland plays in the production and secretion of hormones all around the body is complex but if you break it down, you will be able to better understand the symptoms you may be experiencing.
The thyroid gland takes iodine from food and converts it into thyroid hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). T4 and T3 are involved in every function of the body. A normal thyroid gland will produce 80% T4 and 20% T3.
So, what causes thyroid problems?
Thyroid issues are most commonly caused by unbalanced TSH levels or issues with the thyroid gland.
Hypothyroidism or an underactive thyroid
...is most commonly caused by an autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. In cases of Hashimoto’s, the body produces antibodies that partly destroy the thyroid gland.
This leads to the underproduction of thyroxine and triiodothyronine.
Hypothyroidism may also be caused by pituitary gland disorders, hypothalamus disorders and iodine deficiencies. Sometimes babies are born with congenital hypothyroidism.
Hyperthyroidism or an overactive thyroid
...is most commonly caused by an autoimmune disease called Grave’s disease. Grave’s disease. In cases of Grave's disease, the body produces antibodies that over-stimulate the thyroid gland or cause it so become enlarged. This leads to the overproduction of thyroxine and triiodothyronine.
Hyperthyroidism may also be caused by toxic nodular goiter, thyroid adenoma, thyroiditis or secondary hyperthyroidism in which the pituitary gland makes too much thyroid stimulating hormone.
60% of those who suffer with thyroid issues are unaware of their condition due to the fact that symptoms are often masked by commonplace physical and emotional responses to everyday life.
What Are The Symptoms Of Thyroid Problems?
The symptoms of thyroid issues are very similar in both men and women, though thyroid issues are more likely to affect women.
The thyroid gland affects every part of the body. You may feel cold and you may feel tired all the time.
Your skin may be dry, your hair might thin out, become fragile or break. Very commonly, you may find yourself putting on weight or find it difficult to lose weight.
As mentioned, the signs that you should take a thyroid test at home may be masked by responses to everyday life such as feeling tired all the time, brain fog, weight gain or loss and changes in bowel movements.
You should take a thyroid test at home if you experience symptoms associated with an under or overactive thyroid, especially if those symptoms become persistent or last for six weeks.
Feeling the cold more than usual, weight gain, hair thinning and constipation are the most common signs and symptoms associated with thyroid issues, especially if you have an underactive thyroid.
To date, we also know that the prevalence rates of those living with an underactive thyroid is substantially higher than those living with an overactive thyroid.
Here are some of the circumstances that may suggest that it's time to take a test:
- You have inexplicably gained weight
- You feel tired all of the time
- Your heart rate is lower than it once was
- You feel cold all of the time
- You are experiencing slow-moving bowel movements, bloating and/or intestinal discomfort
- You find it difficult to concentrate on daily tasks that you used to be able to complete with ease
- You find it difficult to remember small details or focus, also known as brain fog
- You have unexplained muscular stiffness and joint pain
- You are developing dry skin and/or have a dry mouth and throat
- You are developing a hoarse voice
- You are experiencing swelling in the neck and snore at night
- You feel depressed, anxious or are experiencing mood-swings on a regular basis
- You have issues with hearing
- You are experiencing thinning of the hair or hair loss
- Your periods are irregular
- You have a low sex drive
Hypothyroidism is more common than hyperthyroidism. Concrete numbers on the global prevalence of both disorders are not well known due to the large number of cases that are undiagnosed. 12% of those living in the U.S will be diagnosed with thyroid issues in their lifetime.
You should take a thyroid test at home if you are suffering from the following signs of an overactive thyroid, also known as hyperthyroidism for up to six weeks or more:
- You have inexplicably lost up to 10 pounds, or are finding it difficult to put on weight
- You feel tired all the time regardless of how much you sleep
- You have no appetite
- You feel too warm all the time and/or experience excessive sweating on a regular basis
- You are experiencing diarrhea or more frequent bowel movements
- You are experiencing shaking or tremors on a regular basis
- You feel anxious or are experiencing mood-swings on a regular basis
- Your periods are irregular and lighter than usual
- You have a low sex drive
You should take the thyroid test at home if you experience 1-3 of these signs and symptoms for up to six weeks.
What Is The Difference Between Taking A Thyroid Test At Home Or At A Physician's Clinic?
Well, to begin, the main difference of taking a thyroid test at home is that you get to take the test at home! This means that you will not need to make a doctor's appointment, take time off work or wait in a waiting room.
1. No Need To Deviate From A Busy Schedule
With at home testing, you have the ability to take the test in the comfort of your own home. As with most blood tests, you will need to take the test fasted and in the morning but the fact that you can take the test at home streamlines the process, and makes it easier for you to complete the test without deviating from your busy schedule.
2. The Volume Of Blood Required To Take The Test
The next main difference between taking a thyroid test at home and taking a thyroid test at the doctors is the volume of your sample.
The amount of blood you need to take, with a LetsGetChecked thyroid test is much lower than you would need to take at your doctors.
With a LetsGetChecked thyroid test, you simply fill a small vial of blood from the tip of your finger, if you go to the hospital or to a physician's office, they will require a venous blood sample from your arm to sucessfully analyze the sample.
3. Access To Your Results 24/7
With the LetsGetChecked thyroid test, you have access to your results 24/7 through your online personalized dashboard. This means no supplementary payments to follow up with your physician, no chasing down your results and no need to request for a copy of your results for future reference.
LetsGetChecked will give you full access to your results via your online dashboard alongside a call from a member of our medical team who will offer you advice and guidance at every step of the way.
4. Being A Phonecall Away From The Advice You Need
Taking blood tests can be a stressful experience, especially when it comes to a condition that may be causing symptoms that make you worry.
Using LetsGetChecked gives you full access to our on site medical team. Whatever your worries may be before, during or after the test, our team will be there to alleviate your worries. This puts you at the centre of your own healthcare and means that you don't need to arrange extra appointments or take time out of your schedule for the things that matter most, your wellness.
Are Home Thyroid Tests Accurate?
When it comes to at home health testing, you need to do your homework before you make a decesion or purchase a test.
Speaking on behalf of LetsGetChecked, I can say that we use the same laboratories that hospitals use when analyzing your blood sample.
You can find out more about this here.
Both our laboratories and medical team hold global accreditations, meaning that our standard of lab testing and care is equal to what you would experience in a physician's office.
Once you have done your investigation and you are comfortable in the knowledge that the quality of testing will be up to standard, you will no longer need to make appointments or sit in waiting rooms.
In the case of LetsGetChecked, our thyroid testing options are certified to be as accurate as full venous blood draws.
Those who wish to understand their thyroid function now have the option to take a test while "on-the-go" without needing to take time away from their busy schedule.
It’s obviously much more convenient at home but the end result between taking a thyroid test at home and a thyroid test at the doctors is the same. You will receive the same accurate result as you would in a physician's office, that will indicate how your thyroid is functioning.
Watch the video below to get a better understanding of at home thyroid testing
In this video, I demonstrate how to take a thyroid test at home and showcase why it offers the same accuracy as taking a test in a physician's office, while at the same time offers a cost effective and more convenient solution.
How Do I Know If I Have A Thyroid Issue? : Andreea's Story
Most medical professionals struggle to fully understand why hypothyroidism is more common than hyperthyroidism, and why women are more likely to experience either thyroid issue.
Nonetheless, it is a fact that women are 5-8 times more likely to suffer from thyroid issues than men.
It is hypothesized that because women are more likely to experience autoimmune diseases like diabetes and lupus, they will also be more likely to experience thyroid problems. Put simply, if you have one autoimmune disease, you’re more likely to get another one. The definitive reason why women suffer from autoimmune diseases more than men is unknown.
LetsGetChecked is joined by Andreea Opris, who says that her battle with hypothyroidism began with chronic fatigue, anxiety and hair-loss.
Andreea is the founder of yourbeauty.ie and has lived with an underactive thyroid, or hypothyroidism for seven years now. She shares her experiences as well as her hints and tips for dealing with the condition.
When did you first experience symptoms associated with hypothyroidism?
A bit over seven years ago I started to feel very fatigued without reason. I had bouts of anxiety and tiredness no matter how much I slept. I also suffered with hair and eyebrow loss.
The symptoms were coming and going, my blood results seemed normal and my doctor didn’t have any answer for me, other than maybe I was stressed and I should just look after myself better with diet and exercise. Of course, unsatisfied with the answer I started researching my symptoms online and the underactive thyroid seemed to be the culprit.
In your writings about thyroid health, you say that you were repeatedly told that your results were not far enough out of range to warrant action. Did you feel let down by your medical team?
To be completely honest, yes I did. I was left untreated for two long years, while I struggled with very unpleasant symptoms. When I requested my blood results after a couple of ‘normal’ tests, it transpired that my levels were actually borderline underactive and I had a very high antibody count, which explained my symptoms.
I was also deficient in vitamin D and although highlighted on my results, I was never treated for it.
Why do you think it took so long to be put on medication?
In theory, I was a healthy 27 year old, that didn’t smoke or drink and looked healthy. Somehow I understand the reticence of a doctor to put a healthy patient on lifelong thyroid medication if its not necessary.
Eventually I hit rock bottom and I started losing my hair in clumps, having developed alopecia areata so I started looking for another opinion. I changed doctor and started my thyroid treatment in 2013.
Always trust your gut instinct and look out for second opinions, make sure you request your blood results to keep for future reference.
How do you manage your thyroid issues now?
Now I have a great doctor who understands hypothyroidism very well and monitors my levels closely. I am of course under medication and I am getting my levels checked every four-six months for dosage adjustments.
I have found that a gluten free diet has made a huge difference to my whole wellbeing and its helping to keep my antibodies at a normal level.
As I have Hashimoto's thyroiditis and my body sees gluten as a threat, it has a negative physical response to this.
I’m also supplementing with vitamin D, selenium, fish oils and probiotics which are helping to manage my symptoms much better.
Before beginning to take supplements, always check with your physician.
Do you think it's important to use your platform, yourbeauty.ie, so people who suffer from an underactive thyroid can feel less alone in their condition?
Its hugely important. I had a health scare earlier this year, my physician felt a lump in my thyroid and I was sent for a scan. I have talked publicly on my social media about my concerns and was overwhelmed by the response I got, so many women seem to have an underactive thyroid condition.
Luckily, I managed to get a private scan quick enough and my results were ok, but getting the chance to speak to other people in the same position made me feel better and more positive about the outcomes.
What are the best three things you can do to help yourself live with an underactive thyroid?
- Find a healthcare provider that you trust and that will take your symptoms seriously.
- Try to make lifestyle changes, stress management and an improved healthy diet will do wonders for your overall well-being.
- Research good quality supplements that will help manage the underactive thyroid.
Should You Take A Thyroid Test?
You should take the thyroid test at home proactively. Early detection is the best prevention for further damage to the thyroid gland and health complications later in life.
You should take the test if you have a family history of autoimmune diseases, if you have a history of taking performance enhancing drugs or if you have suffered from genetic birth defects.
If you are suffering from symptoms associated with thyroid issues for upto six weeks, you should take a thyroid test.
For a more indepth view of your thyroid, and more comprehensive view into any damage that your thyroid might have already experienced, LetsGetChecked provide a Thyroid Antibody Test which offers a more comprehensive view of thyroid function by measuring thyroid antibodies associated with thyroid damage known as thyroglobulin antibodies and thyroid peroxidase antibodies.
We offer all patients personalized support at every step of the way to rule out potential thyroid function issues. Track, monitor and improve your health by taking an at home thyroid test today.
Written by Dr. Dominic Rowley | Edited by Hannah Kingston