Thyroid Numbers


A Guide to Understanding Thyroid Numbers

If your doctor suspects you have a condition associated to the thyroid, testing would be performed to determine thyroid numbers.  While these numbers may not mean much to you, they mean a great deal to the doctor.  Based on the numbers, a firm diagnosis of hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism would be made so proper treatment could be recommended.

While lab test results would be maintained in your patient folder at the doctor’s office, you are entitled to a copy of such testing according to the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.  While there might be a nominal fee, you can still request a copy for your personal file.  This is recommended because if you were ever to switch doctors and the thyroid numbers proved a problem, you would have immediate access to information that your new doctor would need.

Thyroid numbers are based off a test known as TSH.  For adults, this number should never be higher than 2.5 according to a new report issued in 2003 by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists.  However, most laboratories that do blood tests to determine thyroid numbers still use the older standards that say the cap for adults is 6.0.  If you were to look at healthy adults, you would see that most people are within the 0.3 to 2.5 range.

If your thyroid numbers were greater than 2.5, you would need additional testing done to find out what is going on with your thyroid system.  Today, medical experts that deal with thyroid disease support the 0.3 to 2.5 range of being normal for adults, which accounts for about 95% of all adults in the world.  Therefore, finding a doctor that would treat any condition should not be hard but as the patient, you have the right and responsibility to stand firm with the results from the study.

Now, it is important to know that thyroid numbers will fluctuate within a 24-hour period by as much as 50% in either direction.  The reason is that the hormone, TSH releases more in the morning.  For this reason, thyroid numbers should only be checked as early in the morning as possible and if needed, a second test could be done to confirm the first numbers.

TSH is a chemical or hormone produced by the pituitary gland, which signals the thyroid to release T3 and T4.  Therefore, if the thyroid numbers for T4 are high, this means the pituitary gland has stopped sending the required signal to the thyroid because it is trying to bring the levels back down to a normal range.  This condition is known as hyperthyroidism, which means the thyroid is working overtime.

On the other hand, when the thyroid is not working at the level it should be, the condition would be hypothyroidism.  While this condition is not as dangerous as hyperthyroidism, they both need to be treated with proper medication and in some instances removal of the thyroid may be required.  Knowing if an illness exists, it all begins with the thyroid numbers that tell a story of your thyroid’s health.


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