The Thyroid Gland, Thyroid Conditions, Thyroid Hormone Test Kits & Treatments Explained: A Beginner's Guide

    In this beginner’s guide, we're going to look into the thyroid gland and why it's important. We'll talk about common thyroid issues and how doctors use thyroid hormone test kits to figure things out. Plus, we'll cover different ways people can deal with thyroid problems so that you can be more informed about this important part of your body.

    x ray image of a thyroid gland

    Key Takeaways:

    Role and Function of the Thyroid Gland:

    The thyroid gland, located in the front of the neck, is essential for regulating metabolism, energy levels, and organ function. It produces crucial hormones, thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), impacting heart rate, digestion, muscle control, and overall growth and development.

    Symptoms and Diagnosis of Thyroid Levels:

    Low thyroid levels (hypothyroidism) can cause fatigue, weight gain, cold sensitivity, and depression. High thyroid levels (hyperthyroidism) may lead to weight loss, increased heart rate, anxiety, and heat sensitivity. Diagnosis typically involves blood tests measuring TSH, free T4, and free T3 levels.

    Treatment Options for Thyroid Conditions:

    Treatments depend on the thyroid disorder. Medications like Levothyroxine and Liothyronine replenish thyroid hormones. Radioiodine therapy and thyroidectomy are options for hyperthyroidism or thyroid cancer, with radioiodine targeting overactive cells and surgery removing part or all of the gland. Treatments are tailored to the patient's health and specific condition.

    What is the thyroid gland?

    The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped organ situated in the front of your neck, just below your Adam's apple. Despite its modest size, it plays a crucial role in regulating various bodily functions. Think of it as the body's thermostat, influencing metabolism, energy levels, and the functioning of organs. This gland produces hormones, notably thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), which are vital for maintaining a balanced and efficient internal environment. 

    What does the thyroid gland control?

    The thyroid gland has significant control over several essential functions within the body. Primarily, it regulates metabolism, influencing how the body utilises energy from food. This in turn impacts weight, energy levels, and temperature regulation. The thyroid also plays a pivotal role in the proper functioning of organs, affecting heart rate, digestion, and muscle control. As well as this, the thyroid has a role in growth and development, especially in children. It contributes to the maintenance of healthy skin, hair, and nails.

    Is the thyroid gland the same in males and females?

    Yes, the thyroid gland is similar in both males and females. The structure and function of the thyroid gland do not differ based on gender. However, there can be variations in the prevalence of thyroid disorders between males and females. For instance, certain thyroid conditions, like hypothyroidism and autoimmune thyroid diseases, are more common in women than in men. Despite these differences in susceptibility to certain conditions, the fundamental role of the thyroid gland remains consistent across genders, contributing to metabolism, energy regulation, and overall well-being.

    Thyroid Levels

    What is a healthy thyroid level?

    Maintaining a healthy thyroid level involves a delicate balance of thyroid hormones in the blood. Typically, healthcare professionals assess thyroid function by measuring the levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), as well as free thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). The standard reference range for thyroid levels is:

    • TSH levels usually fall between 0.4 and 4.0 milliunits per litre (mU/L).

    • Free T4 levels are typically between 9 and 23 picomoles per litre (pmol/L).

    • Free T3 levels generally range from 3.5 to 7.8 pmol/L.

    Thyroid Level Symptoms

    What are the symptoms of a low thyroid level?

    A low thyroid level, often associated with hypothyroidism, can manifest through a variety of symptoms. These may include:

    • Fatigue

    • Weight Gain

    • Cold Sensitivity

    • Dry Skin and Hair

    • Muscle Aches/Weakness

    • Joint Pain

    • Constipation

    • Depression

    What are the symptoms of a high thyroid level?

    An elevated thyroid level, often associated with hyperthyroidism, can lead to a range of symptoms. These may include: 

    • Weight Loss

    • Increased Heart Rate

    • Nervousness/Anxiety

    • Heat Sensitivity

    • Fatigue

    • Diarrhoea

    • Muscle Weakness

    How is a test for thyroid function done?

    Testing for thyroid function typically involves blood tests that measure the levels of specific hormones related to the thyroid. The most common thyroid function tests include:

    • Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH): TSH is produced by the pituitary gland and stimulates the thyroid to produce T4.

    • Free thyroxine (T4): T4 is the main hormone produced by the thyroid gland. This test measures the amount of unbound (free) T4 in the blood.

    • Free triiodothyronine (T3): T3 is another thyroid hormone, and this test measures the amount of unbound T3 in the blood.

    • Thyroid antibodies: These tests detect the presence of antibodies that may indicate autoimmune thyroid disorders

    Which medications are available to treat thyroid conditions?

    Several medications are commonly used to treat thyroid conditions, and the choice of medication depends on the specific thyroid disorder. Here are some medications used for common thyroid conditions that you can purchase from EU Meds:

    • Levothyroxine - Replenishes hormones responsible for growth and energy levels.

    • Eltroxin - Replenishes hormones produced by the thyroid gland.

    • Liothyronine - Synthetic hormones used to replenish diminished levels.

    What is radioiodine?

    Radioiodine, also known as radioactive iodine or I-131, is a form of iodine that emits radiation. It is commonly used in the treatment of hyperthyroidism. Radioiodine is usually given orally in a capsule or liquid form. Once ingested, the radioactive iodine is absorbed by the overactive thyroid cells. The emitted radiation then targets and damages these cells, leading to a reduction in thyroid hormone production. This process helps to normalise thyroid function.

    When would a doctor recommend radiation therapy as a thyroid treatment?

    Radiation therapy, specifically radioiodine therapy, is typically recommended by doctors in the context of treating hyperthyroidism, particularly when caused by conditions such as Graves' disease or toxic nodular goitre. Before recommending radioiodine therapy, healthcare providers carefully assess the patient's overall health, the severity of the thyroid condition, and the potential risks and benefits of the treatment.

    When would a doctor recommend surgery as a therapy for thyroid treatment?

    A doctor may recommend surgery, known as thyroidectomy, as a therapeutic option for various thyroid conditions. Thyroid surgery is a significant decision, and the recommendation is based on a thorough evaluation of the patient's overall health, the specific thyroid condition, and the potential risks and benefits of the procedure. Before opting for surgery, individuals should discuss their options, including potential alternatives, with their healthcare provider to make an informed decision tailored to their unique situation.

    How can you buy underactive thyroid treatments at EU Meds?

    It is simple and straightforward to purchase treatments for an underactive thyroid when you use EU Meds. Simply select the underactive thyroid medication that you need, complete our free online consultation that will provide you with our free private prescription, if approved. Please note, all requests for supply of prescription medications are subject to an online clinical consultation and the decision to prescribe will be made by a registered doctor. 

    Sources

    NHS - Underactive Thyroid (Hypothyroidism)

    NHS - Overactive Thyroid (Hyperthyroidism)

    PubMed - Gender Differences in Thyroid Function

    NCBI - Thyroid Function and Body Weight

    Livi - Thyroid Stimulating Hormone Information

    NHS Severn Pathology - Thyroid Function Tests

    Thyroid UK - Thyroid Function Tests

    Patient.info - Thyroid Function Tests

    NHS Inform - Underactive Thyroid

    NHS - Symptoms of Underactive Thyroid

    NHS - Symptoms of Overactive Thyroid

    Mayo Clinic - Hypothyroidism Symptoms and Causes

    Healthline - Hyperthyroidism

    Cancer Research UK - Radioactive Iodine Therapy

    RadiologyInfo - Radioiodine Information

    British Thyroid Foundation - What Is Thyroid Disorder

    Your Hormones - Thyroid Gland

    NCBI - Thyroid Gland Information

    Wikipedia - Thyroid

    WebMD - What Does Thyroid Do

    Macmillan - Thyroid Gland in Cancer

    WebMD - Hypothyroidism Symptoms and Causes

    WebMD - What Does Thyroid Do

    Related Products

    preview
    From £729.29
    • Contains a synthetic version of a thyroid hormone
    • Effective for treating hypothyroidism
    • Suitable for those who can't have Levothyroxine
    preview
    From £85.79
    • Effective thyroid treatment
    • Replaces hormones
    • Prevents symptoms

    Here to help you

    Our Customer Service is available Monday to Friday 9am - 4pm. If you need urgent assistance, do not use this service. Call 111, or in an emergency call 999. Visit our help section