Doctors rely on three key things to make a hypothyroidism diagnosis:
1. Medical history.
2. Signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism. Someone experiencing hypothyroidism may have physical symptoms, cognitive and mood-related symptoms, or symptoms they might not be aware of. Knowing specific symptoms will allow doctors to diagnose hypothyroidism over other thyroid conditions.
• Weight gain (due to fluid retention)
• Dry skin
• Yellow skin
• Hair loss, including the eyebrows
• Swollen face, hands, legs, ankles, or feet
• Feeling cold
• Aches and pains in muscles or joints
• Hoarse or raspy voice
• Heavy menstrual bleeding or irregular periods
Cognitive and mood-related symptoms:
• Slower thinking
• Trouble remembering things
• Slower speech or movement
• Feeling down or depressed
Symptoms you might not be aware of:
• Enlarged thyroid gland (your doctor can check for this during an exam)
• Changes in cholesterol
• Slow heart rate
3. Simple blood tests. The TSH test to check the level of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), and sometimes an FT4 test to check the level of the thyroid hormone thyroxine. Low thyroxine and high TSH levels point to hypothyroidism.
A TSH level usually falls between 0.4 and 4.0 mIU/L for someone with normal thyroid function. However, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists suggests that patients with hypothyroidism maintain a TSH level between 0.3 and 3.0 mIU/L.
Screening and testing for high-risk groups
Older women and pregnant women are at higher risk of developing hypothyroidism. Therefore, some doctors will recommend hypothyroidism screening for some women during annual physical exams, and hypothyroidism testing for women who are considering pregnancy or are already pregnant.
Speak to your physician about hypothyroidism testing and diagnosis.