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Thyroid Testing: What Is a Normal TSH Level?

Health Information on the Internet and in the Media - Technology, The Internet, and The Media: Thyroid Testing: What Is a Normal TSH Level? By Mary Shomon, About.com Guide May 07, 2009 As of May 2009, ...

 

  1. #1

    Thyroid Testing: What Is a Normal TSH Level?

    Thyroid Testing: What Is a Normal TSH Level?
    By Mary Shomon, About.com Guide
    May 07, 2009

    As of May 2009, at most laboratories in the U.S., the official "normal" reference range for the Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) blood test runs from approximately .5 to 5.0.

    Reference range is a critical component, and the validity of the entire TSH test as diagnostic tool depends on it. TSH reference range is what determines -- for the vast majority of physicians, who rely on blood tests almost exclusively -- whether or not thyroid disease is even diagnosed at all, much less treated, and when diagnosed, how it is treated.

    A reference range is obtained by taking a large group of people in the population, measuring their TSH levels, and calculating a mean value. Supposedly, these people should be free of thyroid disease. What experts are now coming to understand, however, is that the upper TSH normal range has included people who actually have mild thyroid disease, and their higher TSH levels skewed the standard curve.

    This understanding led to the recommendation, more than six years ago in January 2003, by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, that doctors "consider treatment for patients who test outside the boundaries of a narrower margin based on a target TSH level of 0.3 to 3.0." (Read AACE statement now).

    This was backed up by research done by the National Academy of Clinical Biochemistry, part of the Academy of the American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC), and presented in their Laboratory Medicine Practice Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Monitoring of Thyroid Disease. Read the Guidelines now). Late in 2002, this group reported that: "In the future, it is likely that the upper limit of the serum TSH euthyroid reference range will be reduced to 2.5 mIU/L because more than 95% of rigorously screened normal euthyroid volunteers have serum TSH values between 0.4 and 2.5 mIU/L."

    More recently, researchers have looked at an important question: If the normal TSH range were narrowed, as has been recommended by AACE and the National Academy of Clinical Biochemistry, what are the implications?

    One study found that using a TSH upper normal range of 5.0, approximately 5% of the population is hypothyroid.

    However, if the upper portion of the normal range was lowered to 3.0, approximately 20% of the population would be hypothyroid.

    Implications for Patients
    It's now more than six years since the experts have established that this new, narrower TSH normal range of 0.3 to 3.0 is a more accurate one, and recommended that it become the standard of practice. Yet, the dithering continues. Some doctors use the new range for diagnosis and therapeutic management -- others refuse to consider anything unless it's marked "High" or "Low" on laboratory reports.

    Patients can arm themselves with copies of the AACE and National Academy of Clinical Biochemistry reports, educate their practitioners, and patronize those doctors who stay up on the research, and leave behind those doctors who stick their heads in the sand and refuse to recognize millions of undiagnosed, undertreated people with hypothyroidism.

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  3. #2

    Re: Thyroid Testing: What Is a Normal TSH Level?

    Again, always ask for the specific numbers. It's the numbers that will enable you to decipher where, in the range, you truly fall. Jot these down when your doctor is giving you the blood test results.

  4. #3

    Re: Thyroid Testing: What Is a Normal TSH Level?

    I'm sorry if I am asking a stupid question here. I did not read the whole article because it wasn't registering in my wee brain. In other words I cannot concentrate enough.
    I did notice numbers and American something or other.

    My question is about the ranges and why it's different in Canada compared to the US. I remember having my blood work lab results given to me from one Dr to give another Dr. The ranges were 0.20-6.0 mcl/l (lol that last part(mcl/l) might be wrong).

    Also, I'm sure, actually I am positive I whined about this on here somewhere but I never did get an answer from my Dr.s. Are the results of a test just to figure out where you are, hypo or hyper? Because mine were abnormally high, obviously way to high or to low can't be immediately dangerous?

  5. #4

    Re: Thyroid Testing: What Is a Normal TSH Level?

    Not a stupid question STP...My point being that often, doctors dismiss us by telling us that we're in the 'normal range'. But, the reality is that being in the 'range' doesn't diminish certain symptoms for people. So, where thyroidism is concerned, we need to be precise in the numbers game.

    I know some people who suffer from hypo-thyroidism. Some of the symptoms can be - muscle pain, heart palpitation, being constantly cold...

    The problem with thyroid problems is that it's easy to brush it off to other problems. The symptoms -being excessively tired, cold, and sometimes just depleted. So doctors can easily dismiss it as stress or depression. Thus, the need to get our scores. Medication can really help with a diagnosis of thyroidism - but only when it's regulated as close to the bottom end of that spectrum.

    Sometimes doctors think that a thyroid problem is 'ok' as long as they were in that particular range...So, my quandary was, 'is it really' or, can we do better? Can we get the scores as low as possible so that the individual patient doesn't have to suffer some of the symptoms which accompany problems with thyroid? I don't know the answer...I just don't see any need, in this day in age, for anyone to suffer from any ailments simply because they fall within a 'spectrum' of what is considered 'normal' by physicians.

    Again, I don't know the answer. If I were suffering from this condition, I just would like to think that I would demand that the score be closer to the low end of it, irrespective of the hoops I'd have to jump with respect to the medications issues....
    Last edited by Jazzey; December 9th, 2009 at 05:20 AM. Reason: privacy

  6. #5

    Re: Thyroid Testing: What Is a Normal TSH Level?

    I was diagnosed with Lithium induced hypothyroidism early this year. My lab results came back as 38.19 which is just a tad higher then 0.20-6.0. I had a Dr. put me on synthroid but it is what made my hair fall out (more so then my other meds) and it made me no able to breath. I was taken off that and it was never mentioned again.

    This is why I wonder if it is seriously dangerous or not because one of my Dr.s said it was the highest he had ever seen in however many years and this Dr. obviously doesn't think it was a big deal?

    I know your not a Dr. Or are you? Miss smarty pants. I just have never really had much luck with any of my questions with the Dr.s I saw about this. No harm in asking on here (again, lol sorry).

  7. #6

    Re: Thyroid Testing: What Is a Normal TSH Level?

    No, I'm definitely not a doctor.

    I just know, from my friends, the effects of thyroidism...It is serious. It does have to be monitored.

    One of my friends is currently in remission from sarcosis. I don't know if you remember, but this is the very disease that killed Bernie Mac. It's a pulmonary disease that, while genetic, is also tied to thyroid problems in adults. The problem with sarcosis is that it is 1) not treatable, 2)makes the patient susceptible to pneumonia and other pulmonary diseases because of the scar tissues induces by sarcosis...

    So yes, to answer your question, thyroidism should never be diminished. I know that it often is - and that's when we can jump in and be real advocates for our own health. No one else will do it for us, STP...Thyroidism unfortunately leads to other medical conditions which may, or may not, be quite serious...

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarcoidosis

  8. #7
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    Re: Thyroid Testing: What Is a Normal TSH Level?

    Quote Originally Posted by STP View Post
    I know your not a Dr. Or are you? Miss smarty pants.
    Yeah Jazzey, very intelligent! You could be a doctor

    My mum has an underactive thyroid that she has to take medication for.

  9. #8

    Re: Thyroid Testing: What Is a Normal TSH Level?

    I'm sorry to hear your friend has that disease. That has to be very scary. I hope he/she is able to manage it as well as possible.
    My "best friend" had hodgkins disease and developed a thyroid condition from the radiation. That thyroid is a sensitive little thing.


    Quote Originally Posted by Jazzey View Post
    So yes, to answer your question, thyroidism should never be diminished. I know that it often is - and that's when we can jump in and be real advocates for our own health. No one else will do it for us, STP...Thyroidism unfortunately leads to other medical conditions which may, or may not, be quite serious...
    Except for mine I guess. lol I'm all for being an advocate for my health. I just gave up with this one because if I remember correctly I ended up dealing with 4 or 5 different Dr.s who all pretty much blew me off, I'm not a loud and assertive person (under some circumstances I am),then when I started getting "emotional" because of it- well yeah, I'm the mental patient.

  10. #9
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    Re: Thyroid Testing: What Is a Normal TSH Level?

    Don't give up STP! Perhaps you can get a referal to a specialist who will take you more seriously?

  11. #10

    Re: Thyroid Testing: What Is a Normal TSH Level?

    lol Funny. Oh! You were serious... I am supposedly "referred" to two different internists by two different Dr.s both said I would get a call to tell me of my appointment. The first Dr. told me that in May and the other told me in August. If it takes that long for someone to phone to even book the appointment I can only imagine what year I will get the appointment. 2011-2012. lol 2012 Maybe I won't have to worry about it if the world ends 2012.

    This is why I get paranoid and don't trust, because to me this just says that they were humouring me.

    Anyway. Someone feel free to delete all this or move the article up. I didn't mean to hijack the thread.

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