What Tests Are Done to Check the Thyroid?

Reviewed on 7/7/2022
A lab technician holding a blood test sample
Tests done to check the thyroid for problems include blood tests (thyroid-stimulating hormone [TSH], thyroxine [T4], triiodothyronine [T3], thyroid antibody tests, thyroid scan, ultrasound, radioactive iodine uptake test, fine needle aspiration biopsy, and others.

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland located below the Adam's apple in the lower part of the neck that wraps around the windpipe (trachea). Common thyroid problems include: 

Tests done to check the thyroid for problems include: 

  • Blood tests
    • Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH)
    • Thyroxine (T4)
    • Triiodothyronine (T3)
    • Thyroid antibody tests
    • Other blood tests to help determine the cause of hyperthyroidism (such as Graves' disease, toxic nodular goiter, or thyroiditis)
  • Other tests 
    • Thyroid scan 
    • Ultrasound
    • Radioactive iodine uptake test
    • Fine needle aspiration biopsy for thyroid nodules

What Are Symptoms of Thyroid Problems?

Common symptoms of hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) may include:

Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) may not cause any symptoms. When symptoms of hyperthyroidism occur, they may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Anger
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Sweating more than usual
  • Difficulty in hot weather, sweating when it’s not excessively hot, hot 
  • Weakness 
  • Hand tremors 
  • Fast or uneven heartbeats
  • Tiredness/fatigue 
  • Weight loss even with a normal or increased appetite 
  • Oily skin 
  • Diarrhea/frequent bowel movements 
  • Vision changes 
    • Watery eyes
    • Eye redness or dryness
    • Difficulty closing the eyelids
    • Bulging eyes (if caused by Graves' disease)
  • Hair thinning or hair loss 
  • Swelling in the neck (goiter)
  • Memory problems
  • Irregular or missed menstrual periods, which may be associated with infertility
  • Breast tissue growth in men
  • Erectile dysfunction (impotence)
  • Atrial fibrillation, chest pain, and rarely, heart failure if untreated

Symptoms of thyroid cancer may include: 

  • A lump or nodule in the neck
    • Nodule may cause no symptoms
    • In some cases, the tumor may have spread to lymph nodes in the neck, which may be enlarged 
    • See a doctor if you notice a lump on the neck
  • Swelling in the neck
  • Pain in the neck, jaw, or ear
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing if the nodule is large
  • Hoarseness or other voice changes 
  • Persistent cough not due to a cold
Reviewed on 7/7/2022

Image source: iStock Images