Don't rely on in-home tests for thyroid conditions

Don't rely on in-home tests for thyroid conditions

"Is there an in-home test I can use to check for thyroid problems?" — Angie's List member Barbara McDonald, Albany, Ga.

There are home kits that measure the levels of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) in the blood to detect thyroid conditions, but they're a waste of money, says Carole Spencer, a professor of medicine at the University of Southern California, and past president of the American Thyroid Association.

"These kits are less reliable than having a test done in a typical clinical laboratory, and one of the problems is their lack of sensitivity," Spencer says. Most home test kits have a sensitivity that cannot detect TSH levels below 5, and the recommended reference range for TSH levels is 3, and even lower for pregnant women, Spencer explains.

The thyroid hormone helps us use energy, stay warm, and keep the brain, heart and other organs working properly. Having too little thyroid hormone can cause fatigue, increased sensitivity to cold and constipation. Symptoms of too much hormone include nervousness, increased perspiration and hand tremors.

Even if you use home test kits, your doctor will retest you because he or she cannot rely on the results, Spencer says. The bottom line is if you suspect your symptoms are due to thyroid problems, see your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.

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