A TSH test measures the amount of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) in your blood. TSH is produced by the pituitary gland. It prompts the thyroid gland to make and release thyroid hormones into the blood.
Thyrotropin; Thyroid stimulating hormone; Hypothyroidism - TSH; Hyperthyroidism - TSH; Goiter - TSH
How the Test is Performed
T3 test(free or total) T4 test(free or total)
How to Prepare for the Test
There is no preparation needed for this test. Ask your health care provider about any medicines you are taking that may affect the test results. DO NOT stop taking any medicines without first asking your provider.
Medicines you may need to stop for a short time include:
- Potassium iodide
- Prednisone or other glucocorticoid medicines
The vitamin biotin (B7) can affect the results of the TSH test. If you take biotin, talk to your provider before you have any thyroid function tests.
How the Test will Feel
When the needle is inserted to draw blood, some people feel moderate pain. Others feel only a prick or stinging. Afterward, there may be some throbbing or a slight bruise. This soon goes away.
Why the Test is Performed
Your provider will order this test if you have symptoms or signs of an
Your provider may also check your TSH level if you are planning to get pregnant.
Normal values range from 0.5 to 5 microunits per milliliter (µU/mL).
TSH values can vary during the day. It is best to have the test early in the morning. Experts do not fully agree on what the upper number should be when diagnosing thyroid disorders.
Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Some labs use different measurements or test different samples. Talk to your provider about the meaning of your specific test results.
If you are being treated for a thyroid disorder, your TSH level will likely be kept between 0.5 and 4.0 µU/mL, except when:
- A pituitary disorder is the cause of the thyroid problem. A low TSH may be expected.
- You have a history of certain types of thyroid cancer. A TSH value below the normal range may be best to prevent the thyroid cancer from coming back.
- A woman is pregnant. The normal range for TSH is different for women who are pregnant. Your provider may suggest that you take thyroid hormone, even if your TSH is in the normal range.
What Abnormal Results Mean
A higher-than-normal TSH level is most often due to an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism). There are many causes of this problem.
A lower-than-normal level may be due to an overactive thyroid gland, which can be caused by:
Graves disease Toxic nodular goiteror multinodular goiter
- Too much iodine in the body (due to receiving iodine contrast used during imaging tests, such as CT scan)
- Taking too much thyroid hormone medicine or prescribed natural or over-the-counter supplements that contain thyroid hormone
Use of certain medicines may also cause a lower-than-normal TSH level. These include glucocorticoids/steroids, dopamine, certain chemotherapy drugs, and opioid painkillers such as morphine.
There is little risk involved with having your blood taken.Veins and arteries vary in size from one person to another and from one side of the body to the other. Obtaining a blood sample from some people may be more difficult than from others.
Other risks associated with having blood drawn are slight, but may include:
- Excessive bleeding
- Fainting or feeling lightheaded
- Multiple punctures to locate veins
- Hematoma (blood buildup under the skin)
- Infection (a slight risk any time the skin is broken)
Guber HA, Farag AF. Evaluation of endocrine function. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 23rd ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2017:chap 24.
Jonklaas J, Cooper DS. Thyroid. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 213.
Salvatore D, Cohen R, Kopp PA, Larsen PR. Thyroid pathophysiology and diagnostic evaluation. In: Melmed S, Auchus RJ, Goldfine AB, Koenig RJ, Rosen CJ, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 14th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 11.
Weiss RE, Refetoff S. Thyroid function testing. In: Jameson JL, De Groot LJ, de Kretser DM, et al, eds. Endocrinology: Adult and Pediatric. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 78.
Review Date: 26/01/2020
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. Copyright ©2019 A.D.A.M., Inc., as modified by University of California San Francisco. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Information developed by A.D.A.M., Inc. regarding tests and test results may not directly correspond with information provided by UCSF Health. Please discuss with your doctor any questions or concerns you may have.