Understanding the Thyroid Test

By: James Pendergraft

The functioning and activities of the thyroid is one of the most influential processes in the human body. This is because the overproduction or underproduction of thyroid hormones can have adverse effects on the human body and its functioning. As such, it is important that a person undergo thyroid tests frequently and regularly to monitor the level of hormones secreted by the thyroid. Otherwise, the consequences on the health could be costly and fatal.

Why is a Thyroid Test Conducted?

A thyroid test is commonly done for the following reasons:

* As a precautionary measure before surgery
* To determine if a person is experiencing some sort of hormonal problems
* To see if there is a tumor in the thyroid
* To determine if other symptoms are due to a thyroid problem

The Different Thyroid Tests

There are different types of thyroid tests. Each of them serves a particular purpose, especially with regard to determining the exact nature of a thyroid problem that a person is experiencing. Some may be chosen due to the ease with which they are conducted while some are chosen simply because other tests will not be adequate.

The following are the different forms of thyroid tests:

* Measurement of Serum Thyroid Hormones through Radioimmunoassay. This is the most common thyroid test. This is done to determine the amount of thyroxine in the blood. This is an excellent and accurate test of thyroid function, especially if the patient has not been taking any medication.

* Measurement of Pituitary Production of TSH. TSH is the hormone produced by the pituitary gland. If there is a rise in the TSH level, it may represent a response of the pituitary gland to a drop in the level of circulating thyroid hormone. When this happens, it is usually the first indicator of failure of the thyroid gland.

* TRH Test. TRH refers to the hormones secreted by the hypothalamus that acts as a trigger to the pituitary gland to produce TSH. In this case, a person will be injected with TRH and when the patient shows an elevated response to the new level of TRH, it could be an indicator of hypothyroidism.

* Iodine Uptake Scan. This is to determine how much iodine the body utilizes in producing hormones. The cells in the thyroid gland use up the iodine in the bloodstream. When the thyroid gland uses up too little iodine, it means that a person is experiencing hypothyroidism. On the other hand, when a person uses up too much iodine, then it is an indicator of hyperthyroidism.

* Thyroid Scan. This is fast growing to become the most popular means for testing the activity of the thyroid gland, mainly because it makes use of the latest technology. Here, a specialized camera is used to detect the levels of iodine in the thyroid, much in the same manner the that X-rays works. A medical expert will then be able to assess the thyroid activity through what is shown on the image.

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