Unconventional Tests Used to Diagnose Thyroid Disease

Learn More About Iodine Patch Testing and More

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Practitioners sometimes use other diagnostic procedures and tests to identify thyroid dysfunction. The use of these tests is considered controversial to many mainstream practitioners. Some of these tests are, however, well-accepted and in use among alternative, integrative and holistic physicians.

Iodine Patch Tests

This is a test that involves painting a patch of a pure iodine solution on the skin, and determining how quickly the stain on the skin disappears.

This test is reported to be a measure of iodine deficiency, and rapid absorption of the iodine is supposed to indicate iodine deficiency. This test is used by some alternative practitioners. It’s generally considered quite controversial, however. Physician David Derry, M.D., Ph.D. has talked about this test here at the About.com Thyroid site.

Saliva Testing

Saliva testing is growing in popularity with complementary and integrative practitioners. There are a number of companies claiming to provide saliva testing for thyroid function, but only one company seems to be used frequently by complementary practitioners: Diagnos-Techs. You can find out more about saliva testing in this article from Drs. Richard and Karilee Shames.

Urinary Testing

Urinary testing for thyroid dysfunction is not in wide use, and is rarely done in the U.S. It’s primarily performed by physicians in in Europe. Typically, doctors in the U.S. who are familiar with the work of the late Dr. Broda Barnes are more likely to use this test as part of the diagnostic process.

Currently, the tests are being processed in Europe, and are fairly costly. More information.

Basal Body Temperature Testing

Typically, basal body temperature (BBT) testing involves measuring the early morning temperature, before movement, over time. In Hypothyroidism: The Unsuspected Illness , Dr. Broda Barnes’ groundbreaking book on thyroid disease, Barnes advocated use of this test as a diagnostic tool.

According to Dr. Barnes, a basal temperatures consistently below 97.8 was a possible indicator of low thyroid function. A small percentage of alternative practitioners rely on basal body temperature results as their primary means of diagnosis. Other alternative practitioners feel that it may be one criterion among several to consider in diagnosis. Most conventional practitioners do not consider the test useful in thyroid diagnosis.

How Is Thyroid Disease Usually Diagnosed?

So, we've looked at some of the more common tests used to diagnose thyroid disease. But how is thyroid disease usually diagnosed?

Because thyroid illness is most common among women, some physicians test women for thyroid illness based on telltale symptoms, such as fatigue, weight gain, dry hair, hair loss, constipation, depression, brain fog, and other common symptoms. A clinical examination and blood tests are typically done in order to evaluate, and then confirm the diagnosis. 

The vast majority of conventional physicians rely on blood tests as a key part of the diagnosis of thyroid disease. These blood tests assess levels of TSH, T4 (thyroxine), and T3 (triiodothyronine) in the blood.  For example, a low level of thyroxine hormone and a high level of TSH indicates that a patient's thyroid is underactive.

Specifically, the pituitary gland--in the brain--produces more TSH in people with underactive thyroid glands in an attempt to spur thyroid production. However, people with thyroid disease are unable to produce more thyroid hormone, which is why thyroxine, or thyroid hormone, levels are low.

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