URL of this page: https://medlineplus.gov/labtests/tshthyroidstimulatinghormonetest.html

TSH (Thyroid-stimulating hormone) Test

What is a TSH Test?

TSH stands for thyroid stimulating hormone. A TSH test is a blood test that measures this hormone. The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located near your throat. Your thyroid makes hormones that regulate the way your body uses energy. It also plays an important role in regulating your weight, body temperature, muscle strength, and even your mood. TSH is made in a gland in the brain called the pituitary. When thyroid levels in your body are low, the pituitary gland makes more TSH. When thyroid levels are high, the pituitary gland makes less TSH. TSH levels that are too high or too low can indicate your thyroid isn't working correctly.

Other names: thyrotropin test

What is it used for?

A TSH test is used to find out how well the thyroid is working.

Why do I need a TSH test?

You may need a TSH test if you have symptoms of too much thyroid hormone in your blood (hyperthyroidism), or too little thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism).

Symptoms of hyperthyroidism, also known as overactive thyroid, include:

  • Anxiety
  • Weight loss
  • Tremors in the hands
  • Increased heart rate
  • Puffiness
  • Bulging of the eyes
  • Difficulty sleeping

Symptoms of hypothyroidism, also known as underactive thyroid, include:

  • Weight gain
  • Tiredness
  • Hair loss
  • Low tolerance for cold temperatures
  • Irregular menstrual periods
  • Constipation

What happens during a TSH test?

A health care professional will take a blood sample from a vein in your arm, using a small needle. After the needle is inserted, a small amount of blood will be collected into a test tube or vial. You may feel a little sting when the needle goes in or out. This usually takes less than five minutes.

Will I need to do anything to prepare for the test?

You don't need any special preparations for a TSH blood test. If your health care provider has ordered other blood tests, you may need to fast (not eat or drink) for several hours before the test. Your health care provider will let you know if there are any special instructions to follow.

Are there any risks to the test?

There is very little risk to having a blood test. You may have slight pain or bruising at the spot where the needle was put in, but most symptoms go away quickly.

What do the results mean?

High TSH levels can mean your thyroid is not making enough thyroid hormones, a condition called hypothyroidism. Low TSH levels can mean your thyroid is making too much of the hormones, a condition called hyperthyroidism. A TSH test does not explain why TSH levels are too high or too low. If your test results are abnormal, your health care provider will probably order additional tests to determine the cause of your thyroid problem. These tests may include:

  • T4 thyroid hormone tests
  • T3 thyroid hormone tests
  • Tests to diagnose Graves' disease, an autoimmune disease that causes hyperthyroidism
  • Tests to diagnose Hashimoto's thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease that causes hypothyroidism

Is there anything else I need to know about a TSH test?

Thyroid changes can happen during pregnancy. These changes are usually not significant, but some women can develop thyroid disease during pregnancy. Hyperthyroidism occurs in about one in every 500 pregnancies, while hypothyroidism occurs in approximately one in every 250 pregnancies. Hyperthyroidism, and less often, hypothyroidism, may remain after pregnancy. If you develop a thyroid condition during pregnancy, your health care provider will monitor your condition after your baby is born. If you have a history of thyroid disease, be sure to talk with your health care provider if you are pregnant or are thinking of becoming pregnant.

References

  1. American Thyroid Association [Internet]. Falls Church (VA): American Thyroid Association; c2017. Thyroid Disease and Pregnancy; [cited 2017 Mar 15]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: http://www.thyroid.org/thyroid-disease-pregnancy
  2. Hinkle J, Cheever K. Brunner & Suddarth's Handbook of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests. 2nd Ed, Kindle. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; c2014. Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone, Serum; p. 484.
  3. Lab Tests Online [Internet]. Washington D.C.: American Association for Clinical Chemistry; c2001–2017. TSH: The Test; [updated 2014 Oct 15; cited 2017 Mar 15]; [about 4 screens]. Available from: https://labtestsonline.org/understanding/analytes/tsh/tab/test
  4. Merck Manual Consumer Version [Internet]. Kenilworth (NJ): Merck & Co Inc.; c2017. Overview of the Thyroid Gland; [cited 2017 Mar 15]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/hormonal-and-metabolic-disorders/thyroid-gland-disorders/overview-of-the-thyroid-gland
  5. Merck Manual Professional Version [Internet]. Kenilworth (NJ): Merck & Co. Inc.; c2017. Overview of Thyroid Gall Function; [updated 2016 Jul; cited 2017 Mar 15]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/endocrine-and-metabolic-disorders/thyroid-disorders/overview-of-thyroid-function
  6. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; What Are the Risks of Blood Tests?; [updated 2012 Jan 6; cited 2017 Mar 15]; [about 5 screens]. Available from: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/bdt/risks
  7. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; What To Expect with Blood Tests; [updated 2012 Jan 6; cited 2017 Mar 15]; [about 4 screens]. Available from: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/bdt/with
  8. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Graves' Disease; 2012 Aug [cited 2017 Mar 15]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/endocrine-diseases/graves-disease#what
  9. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Hashimoto's Disease; 2014 May [cited 2017 Mar 15]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/endocrine-diseases/hashimotos-disease#what
  10. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Pregnancy & Thyroid Disease; 2012 Mar [cited 2017 Mar 15]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/endocrine-diseases/pregnancy-thyroid-disease
  11. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Thyroid Tests; 2014 May [cited 2017 Mar 15]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diagnostic-tests/thyroid
  12. University of Rochester Medical Center [Internet]. Rochester (NY): University of Rochester Medical Center; c2017. Health Encyclopedia: Thyroid Stimulating Hormone; [cited 2017 Mar 15]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=167&contentid=thyroid_stimulating_hormone

Related MedlinePlus Health Topics

The medical information provided is for informational purposes only, and is not to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please contact your health care provider with questions you may have regarding medical conditions or the interpretation of test results.

In the event of a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.