Here’s What the Numbers on Your Thyroid Test Mean

September 4, 2021

By Jessica Migala | | September 4, 2021

Featuring insights from AristaMD’s contracted specialists Erin Okawa, MD, and Quang Nguyen, DO.

More than 12 percent of people in the U.S. will grapple with a thyroid condition at some point, and right now, about 20 million Americans have thyroid disease, according to the American Thyroid Association (ATA).

But thyroid disease can be sneaky, with symptoms — like fatigue and constipation — that are often easy to confuse for other problems. Because of that, the ATA points out, as much as 60 percent of those with a thyroid condition don’t know they have it.

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland at the base of your neck. And while it may be small, it plays a big role in your overall health: It controls your metabolism, according to the Hormone Health Network, which is run by the Endocrine Society. That’s why a thyroid that’s overactive (hyperthyroid) or underactive (hypothyroid) is associated with symptoms like heat or cold intolerance, unintended weight loss or gain, sleep problems, gastrointestinal distress and more.

If you’re having symptoms that can be chalked up to a thyroid issue or have found a mass or lump in your neck at your thyroid gland, then your doctor (or you!) may request a thyroid test, says internal medicine physician Kristen Harvey, MD, ZoomCare Daily Care Practice Lead in Colorado and Idaho. Thyroid levels are measured by a standard blood test.

After your blood test, it’s natural to want to understand your results on your own or at least know what you’re looking at, especially if you’ve gotten your results through a health portal before your doctor has looked at them. We’ll break it down for you here, but you’ll want to have a conversation with your doctor as well.

“There is no cookbook approach for thyroid lab interpretation, but that’s what will happen if you try to interpret your lab on your own before talking to your doctor,” says Quang Nguyen, DO, medical director for Las Vegas Endocrinology and contracted specialist at AristaMD.