Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the TSH Thyroid Test

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If you have a thyroid problem -- or even suspect you have one -- there is almost no way to escape the everpresent TSH test.

TSH stands for Thyroid Stimulating Hormone. This test measures a hormone, produced by the pituitary gland. The pituitary is a small gland located in the brain. The TSH hormone is released as a messenger, to tell the thyroid to "produce more thyroid hormone." So when your TSH rises, that means that the pituitary gland has detected that your thyroid hormone levels are insufficient, a condition known as hypothyroidism.

Via increasing the TSH, it sends the message out to the gland to make more thyroid hormone.

Conversely, when the pituitary gland detects that there is more than enough thyroid hormone circulating, it cuts back on production of TSH. That slowdown in production is a message to your thyroid gland to slow down the production of thyroid hormone. So a low TSH can be an indicator that your thyroid gland is overproducing thyroid hormone, a condition known as hyperthyroidism.

The TSH test is considered by conventional doctors to be the "gold standard" for diagnosing a thyroid condition. But do you REALLY understand the TSH test, what it's measuring, what the numbers mean, and how it affects your health?

For example, check out this fast recap, essentially a crash course on the TSH test. In less than a minute, you'll understand the essentials.

Many patients write to me to ask a common question: What should you do if your TSH results are normal but you still have symptoms?.

Here's a question about TSH tests that doctors rarely discuss this with you, but comes up all the time with many patients...Why is your TSH fluctuating so much from one test to the next?

One thing seems to be a sticking point for many. It's the relationship between TSH levels, and dosages of medication.

So, why, when TSH goes up, does the dosage of medicine go UP?

When it's time to get the actual blood tests, read my article on optimum time and conditions for TSH tests: when should you test, and should you fast?

And what if your TSH is normal? Should you still be treated? Some doctors say yes...that some cases of Hashimoto's should be treated even when the TSH is normal because it can help.

And perhaps of greatest importance to thyroid patients is the ongoing controversy over the approved "normal range." Back in late the early 2000s, endocrinologists said that the TSH normal range was being narrowed, and the new guidelines meant millions more were considered hypothyroid under the new standard. This was a dramatic dramatic change of position for the endocrinology community.

Unfortunately, more than a decade later, the community has since reversed its position, and gone back to the original ranges. Some doctors use more discretion and consider a narrower range more accurate, but many doctors continue to use the old standards. The debate continues, and if you care about your thyroid health, you'll want to make sure you're read about "The TSH Reference Range Wars" to discover what's normal, who is wrong, who is right...and what it all means for your health.

Finally, be sure to bookmark the handy chart on key thyroid function tests for your reference.

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