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Mary Shomon

Your Thyroid is Normal...Or is It?

By November 14, 2007

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If you've been told that your thyroid is "normal," you may think that there's nothing else to investigate. But let's take a look at what it means when a doctor says "normal."

Most conventional doctors rely solely on the TSH test -- the thyroid stimulating hormone blood test -- to diagnose and manage thyroid conditions. The test measures a pituitary hormone, and is considered by many conventional physicians to be the best test -- they call it the "gold standard" -- for evaluating thyroid function. For those doctors, if your TSH test result falls within the reference range, then your thyroid is "normal."

The challenge? For five years, various groups within the endocrinology community have disagreed about the TSH test's reference range. One group favors a range of 0.5 to 5.0, while another group believes that the recommended new range of 0.3 to 3.0 should be adopted. TSH levels above the top of the range are considered evidence of hypothyroidism, an underactive thyroid.

The number of Americans whose TSH levels fall in that limbo between 3.0 and 5.0 -- which is "normal" to some doctors, and hypothyroid to others -- is estimated to be in the millions. That means some people with a TSH of, for example 4.0, will have doctors who treat them for hypothyroidism. Other doctors will tell a patient with a TSH of 4.0 that "your thyroid is normal."

The solution? Always ask for the numbers. If you are told that your thyroid is normal, ask for the specific test names and results, and the reference range being used to make that decision. And, if you are experiencing symptoms, your TSH falls into that 3.0 to 5.0 limbo, and you have a doctor who believes that is normal and won't diagnose or treat you, it's time for a new doctor.

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Comments
November 16, 2007 at 11:26 am
(1) Mary says:

Russell L. Blaylock,author of Excitotoxins, offers an explanation for damaged hypothalamus and pituitary glands. The typical American diet, rich in MSG, aspartame and other excitotoxins, likely causes damage to the hypothalamus & pituitary glands. Animal studies indicate smaller endocrine organs (thyroid, pancreas, sex organs, etc.) in these animals (due to the decreased output/stimulation by the hypothalamus & pituitary). And humans are actually more sensitivfe to these substances than most animals.

Even with thyroid hormone treatment, not all hypothyroid patients will feel optimum when they’re TSH is between 0.5-3.0. There are individuals (like me) whose TSH can be in the normal range, yet their T3 and T4 blood levels are below normal, indicating undertreatment.

So shouldn’t the conversation turn to which hormones indicate optimal replacement? Thyroid hormone blood levels are more important than the pituitary. An isn’t it time these endocrinologists learn to figure out when someone’s pituitary is sluggish, leading to hypo? They usually ignore this possibility as well. The thyroid blood levels (with a complete blood panel) should almost always trump the TSH. After all, shouldn’t thyroid treatment focus more on the thyroid and not the pituiry? It’s time these doctors learn to treat our thyroid glands, and not try to squeeze our TSH numbers into the tiny box of their limited outlook.

November 16, 2007 at 12:12 pm
(2) Ed Arnold says:

Mary’s comment is right on: the average doc doesn’t even consider the possibility of secondary (pituitary-based) hypothyroidism.

Personally, I won’t go to a doctor who speaks in normal/abnormal. My current doctor gives me my numbers for TSH, FT3, and FT4, along with what he thinks the ranges should be, everytime I’m tested. We then decide on dosage by mutual agreement, and by how I feel.

November 19, 2007 at 12:44 pm
(3) Debbie says:

I am very confused…I am also in the same range.on armour for some time & recently told that my T4 is lacking….I have some concerns adding in levoxyl & am now breaking my armour dosage in half & taking 2x a day instead of just in AM any thoughts

November 23, 2007 at 3:58 am
(4) Ciara says:

I am still absolutely astonished that U.S. doctors are treating .5 to 5.0 as a ‘normal’ reading. Here in Ireland (and our medical system is way off being perfect), any readign over 4.0 or close to it would signal immediate alarm bells not only for an Endo but for a regular family physician.
‘Normal’ readings here would be regarded as 0.2 – 2.5 but it is still recognised that what might be nomral for me might be out of whack of others. For example my optimum reading is 0.27, yet a fried feels great with a reading of 1.3.
Also it may take different dosgaes to get two different people to the same readings.

November 26, 2007 at 2:27 am
(5) Angie says:

Thank you, Ciara! My TSH was always around 1.3…perfectly “normal” but that didn’t stop me from getting a multinodular goiter that was literally choking me to death. Eventually after a lot of fighting to be heard, I had to have it removed but few doctors took me seriously until it was grossly obvious that my thyroid was giving me problems. All my bloodwork was always “normal” yet I’ve felt best when the doctors allow me to be around the .2 or .3 range, just like you. All it’s done is create a STRONG distrust of endocrinologists and doctors, especially concerning diagnosis of thyroid problems.

January 4, 2008 at 3:34 pm
(6) Vicki says:

Boy do I agree with you all. My TSH is 0.78 and I have almost all the hypothyroid symptoms including low body temp of 96.8. I’m “normal” and the DR. won’t do anything! Now what do I do??

April 2, 2008 at 5:50 pm
(7) LisaR says:

I went to the doctor feeling really fatiqued all the time. This was in late March I also gained 30 lbs since last checkup in Sept. Last year my TSH was 3.01. Now it is 4.1. According to the card I got back from the doctor’s office .35 to 5.5 is normal. Should I be calling the doctor’s office because I feel horrible.

June 26, 2008 at 11:26 am
(8) carol says:

your very obvious mis-spelling in the sentence “not all hypothyroid patients will feel optimum when they’re TSH is between 0.5-3.0.” your spelling of the word they’re is the contraction of the words they are

September 20, 2010 at 6:54 pm
(9) Kelly says:

Carol, shut up. How is my punctuation and sentence structure on that?

July 27, 2008 at 5:16 am
(10) Dani says:

Carol, I am sorry you missed the main idea for this site. It is for people looking for answers and to share helpful information or experiences. This is not english class — to bad you missed the point !

July 31, 2008 at 2:32 pm
(11) Tiffany says:

I totally agree with everything that y’all are saying. I have been very fatigued, constipated, gained 10 lbs in 2 weeks, excessive sweating, body temp of 96.0, dry hair and crying spells. The only thing that my Endocrinologist told me was that I am depressed because all of my test results are normal. I feel like I can’t find anyone to talk to so that I can get answers and fix this before I get over 250 lbs. It is so frustrating dealing with people who have never gone through this before and telling me that I am just depressed. I know that I can’t keep going like this. I have a full-time job and 3 kids and I don’t have the energy for all of this and I’m only 28 years old. I have always been healthy and when something actually goes wrong, no one knows what to do. They have performed an ultrasound on me which shows that I have a multinodular goiter and the doctor still says that my thyroid is not the problem. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

August 8, 2008 at 9:45 am
(12) android says:

The doctor at the Medical Centre I go to, who said the average level of TSH(?)in humans was 4 also told me my levels when I was first diagnosed was 107. Is this possible or have I got tests mixed up?

August 27, 2008 at 12:45 pm
(13) meximel says:

my doctor just told me that my thyroid is a level eight and it should be a one….i don’t have any weight gain or loss problems if i east to much junk food i gain weight if i regulate how much junk i eat i loose weight now i do have an abnormal and very uncomfortable amount of joint aches and pains and an increased heart rate. does anyone know what a level eight is?

November 29, 2008 at 5:27 pm
(14) clare says:

My level is 1.9 and im still gaining loads of weight i have put on 28 lbs of weight my GP understands thankfully and has just incresead my medication i cant wiat for the day when i stop piling on the lbs!!!

January 6, 2009 at 9:51 am
(15) joann says:

Is it possible for a level to be 1.17? My daughter just had hers checked and that was what it was.The doctor checked the lab to make sure this was correct.

January 15, 2009 at 8:46 pm
(16) MeramecLady says:

My TSH after 4 months on amour thyroid is now .12 and I feel really great but the range says .34 – 4.83. I am wondering it it is too low but I have much better energy and keeping weight off very nicely. It was 2.76 when I started my treatment. FT3 is 5.0 and FT4 – only .6 which I think is still a little low. Any thoughts? I am new at this

September 12, 2009 at 11:07 pm
(17) carole Williams says:

I have been on thyroid medicine since my 35 year old daughter was born and different doctors have prescribed differing amounts. I thought my thyroid was under control and in November I joined weight watchers and was able to lose a 25 pounds by April. But then the weight loss stopped, my fingernails kept breaking and my hair became thin on top. I didn’t put these symptoms together until this month and went to my family doctor who immediately said, “It’s your thyroid.” and ordered a blood test. My tsh was 8.1 and he increased my thyroid to 200 mg. He also switched me from generic to brand name synthroid. I am hopeful I will see a difference before I gain the 25 pounds back and have no fingernails or hair

December 6, 2011 at 11:08 am
(18) Helen says:

If you’re not getting satisfactory help from your doctor (MD), find a Naturopath in your area. Mine has saved me many times over.

August 19, 2012 at 3:24 pm
(19) Debby says:

My Thyroid level is at a 4.0 and has been for years, yet I have gain excessive weight, my hair is falling out, my nails wont grow properly and I had a Doctor tell me my pituitary gland is abnormal, yet when I ask for medication my Dr. looks at me like I’ve grown an extra head. I no longer drink soda, went on weight watchers and still I weigh 230lbs. I’ve always been skinny, around 130lbs. but for the last 10 years no matter what I do I continue to gain. I am a diabetic, I’ve had a AAA and now 3 types of athritus. I’m at the end of my patients and need help.

August 31, 2012 at 7:54 am
(20) Jo says:

I have just been told my thyroid results are 1.3 and are normal yet I am feeling cold one minute then having hot sweats , I am 62 yrs old and have put weight on especially around my tum and hips, feel tired and every thing is an effort. Is 1.3 normal or is it too low I am totaly confused !!

October 11, 2012 at 10:46 pm
(21) victoria says:

after 20 yrs. of thyroid problems (hypo) I finally got on Cytomel plus Synthroid. I am finally starting to grow eyebrows and went down a pant size! I have been on this combination for 3 months. I think Synthroid by itself was never gonna work. Ask your doctor about Cytomel.

December 27, 2012 at 6:37 pm
(22) Katherine says:

I am a 15-year-old with many thyroid conditions. My best friend doesn’t trust doctors, and now I know she may be right! I never get told what my thyroid condition levels are, but I am told it is severely enlarged. About a year and a half ago I had a fine needle biopsy. I am so glad the didn’t have to take more samples. It wasn’t fun for a 13-year-old girl!

January 30, 2013 at 3:52 pm
(23) Danielle says:

My THS is 1.30
Ft4 is .85
TT4 4.0
T3 .58

Help I need answers

June 29, 2013 at 9:09 pm
(24) Dewayne says:

Hi my name is dewayne. And I was recently tested for my thyroid and it came out to be 0.58 and I was looking online that I have a overactive thyroid but the highest is 5.38 and I been having trouble gaining weight and I been tested for thyroid issues for years. And have not been giving nothing and I would like to know if my vaule of 0.58 low or high

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