The Thyroid – Your Metabolism’s Thermostat

The thyroid, a small, butterfly-shaped gland in the front of your neck, has a big role in keeping your body healthy. Almost all the things your body does that we call “metabolism” are controlled at least partly by your thyroid. This means thyroid problems can have a large impact on your overall health. Find out more about your thyroid and why checking it might be good idea.

How Your Thyroid Affects Your Body

The thyroid acts as your metabolism’s thermostat. Using iodine, a chemical found in certain foods, the thyroid puts out a hormone signal to control how much energy your body uses. Too much activity from the gland can cause (among other problems) weight loss, mood swings, difficulty sleeping, diarrhea, nervousness, intolerance to heat, and even an irregular heartbeat. On the flip side, an underactive thyroid can cause weight gain, fatigue, aches and pains, constipation, intolerance to cold, and depressed mood. The exact symptoms experienced because of thyroid problems can differ from person-to-person.

What Is Included in a Thyroid Test

Pixel by LabCorp™ offers a thyroid test package that checks two hormones necessary for your thyroid to function properly: thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) and free thyroxine (FT4). TSH comes from the pituitary gland, a tiny organ found at the base of your brain, and tells your thyroid gland how much of its hormone the body thinks it needs. FT4 is the hormone sent by the thyroid to the rest of the body and is responsible for carrying out all the functions the thyroid controls. Problems with your thyroid may be related to an incorrect amount of either hormone.

Who Should Get Their Thyroid Checked

Recent changes in mood, appetite, energy level, or weight may be related to problems with your thyroid. Anyone experiencing the symptoms mentioned above without another explanation should consider a thyroid test. However, there are a few groups of people who seem to be at higher risk for problems. These include:

  • People with a family history of thyroid problems
  • People over the age of 60
  • People with Type 1 diabetes 
  • Women who have recently given birth 
  • People who take iodine containing medications, like amiodarone
  • People who have received radiation treatment of the neck or chest
  • People with auto-immune disorders like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or pernicious anemia

What Should I Do If My Thyroid Test Is Abnormal?

There are many reasons that a test may show abnormal results and a doctor can help guide you to the next steps. You can print your official lab report from your Pixel results dashboard and share your results with your doctor. Depending on your specific situation, your doctor may recommend re-checking again in the future, further work up, or medication. 

References:

  1. Allen, E. and Fingeret, A. “Anatomy, Head and Neck, Thyroid.” StatPearls [Internet]. StatPearls Publishing, 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470452/
  2. Mullur, R. et al. “Thyroid hormone regulation of metabolism.” Physiol Rev. Apr 2014;94(2):355-382.
  3. “Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid).” National Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases Information Service, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Aug 2016. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/endocrine-diseases/hyperthy....
  4. “Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid).” National Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases Information Service, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Aug 2016. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/endocrine-diseases/hypothyr....
     

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