Hypothyroidism - Diagnosis

Not ready to share? Read other Patient Comments

What tests and exams led to a diagnosis of hypothyroidism?

Share your story with others:

MedicineNet appreciates your comment. Your comment may be displayed on the site and will always be published anonymously.Patient Comments FAQs

Enter your Comment

Tell us a bit about your background to make your comments more useful to other MedicineNet users. (Optional)

Screen Name: *

Gender of Patient: Male Female

Age Range of Patient:

I am a: Patient Caregiver


* Screen Name will appear next to the published comment. Please do not include your full name or email address.

By submitting your comment, and other materials (collectively referred to as a "Submission") to MedicineNet, you grant MedicineNet permission to use, copy, transmit, publish, display, edit and modify your Submission in connection with its Web site. MedicineNet will not pay you for your Submission. You represent that you have all rights necessary for MedicineNet to use your Submission as set forth above.

Please keep these guidelines in mind when writing your comment:

  • Please make sure you address the question asked.
  • Due to the overwhelming number of comments received, not all comments will be published.
  • When selecting comments to publish, our staff will choose those that are educational and complement the topic. Please try to stay on topic.
  • Your comment may be edited. We would typically edit comments to make them clearer and more readable. We will remove personal information such as last names, email and web addresses, and other potentially harmful information.
  • We will not notify you if your comment has been published. We suggest that you check back on the topic article regularly.
  • We do not provide medical or healthcare advice, treatment, or diagnosis.

Thank you for participating!


I have read and agree to abide by the MedicineNet Terms and Conditions and the MedicineNet Privacy Policy (required).

To prevent our systems from spam, please complete the following prior to submitting your comment.

Please select the black square:

How is hypothyroidism diagnosed?

A diagnosis of hypothyroidism can be suspected in patients with fatigue, cold intolerance, constipation, and dry, flaky skin. A blood test is needed to confirm the diagnosis.

When hypothyroidism is present, the blood levels of thyroid hormones can be measured directly and are usually decreased. However, in early hypothyroidism, the level of thyroid hormones (T3 and T4) may be normal. Therefore, the main tool for the detection of hyperthyroidism is the measurement of the TSH, the thyroid stimulating hormone. As mentioned earlier, TSH is secreted by the pituitary gland. If a decrease of thyroid hormone occurs, the pituitary gland reacts by producing more TSH and the blood TSH level increases in an attempt to encourage thyroid hormone production. This increase in TSH can actually precede the fall in thyroid hormones by months or years (see the section on Subclinical Hypothyroidism below). Thus, the measurement of TSH should be elevated in cases of hypothyroidism.

However, there is one exception. If the decrease in thyroid hormone is actually due to a defect of the pituitary or hypothalamus, then the levels of TSH are abnormally low. As noted above, this kind of thyroid disease is known as "secondary" or "tertiary" hypothyroidism. A special test, known as the TRH test, can help distinguish if the disease is caused by a defect in the pituitary or the hypothalamus. This test requires an injection of the TRH hormone and is performed by an endocrinologist (hormone specialist).

The blood work mentioned above confirms the diagnosis of hypothyroidism, but does not point to an underlying cause. A combination of the patient's clinical history, antibody screening (as mentioned above), and a thyroid scan can help diagnose the precise underlying thyroid problem more clearly. If a pituitary or hypothalamic cause is suspected, an MRI of the brain and other studies may be warranted. These investigations should be made on a case by case basis.

Return to Hypothyroidism

See what others are saying

Comment from: Barbie at 50, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: January 14

At age 50 I suddenly lost 15 pounds and was elated, I had not been a size 4 in years. Then I started getting heavy periods, changing a super tampon every half hour. My hands and feet ached. At times I could not even turn the door knob. I had no memory and felt like I was getting Alzheimer's. Then came the hot flashes, night and day. I could not sleep. I gained 20 pounds in about 4 months. I thought this menopause nonsense is for the birds. I went to the doctor to get on hormone medicine. I found out it was hypothyroidism. It was at 12.97. I feel much better but tough to get the weight off.

Was this comment helpful?Yes
Comment from: Mick, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: April 11

I suffered from extremely heavy periods for 3 years, 2 weeks on 1 week off. I wore super tampon and overnight pad and still was changing every half hour. I went to the doctor and he wanted to put me on birth control to regulate. I went to another doctor, I was ready to have surgery, anything to stop it. She asked if I had ever had my thyroid tested. Sure enough it was low. I started on medication, it took a little while and several blood tests to get the dosage right, but my symptoms steadily improved. Three years of suffering cured by one tiny little pill a day. It's the only medication I have ever taken religiously. I wish the other doctor would have thought of this possibility and I wouldn"t have had to suffer so long. Funny thing is, the throat doctor she sent me too to prescribe and regulated my dosage refused to believe that my thyroid could have caused my horrible persistent periods. I know differently.

Was this comment helpful?Yes

STAY INFORMED

Get the latest health and medical information delivered direct to your inbox!