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Normal TSH Levels

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Learn about thyroid stimulating hormones (TSH) and how we can determine if our levels are within the normal range.

Thyroid-stimulating hormones, commonly shortened to TSH, are produced by the pituitary gland.

These hormones control the amount of T3 and T4 that is produced by the thyroid. The thyroid is a gland in the front of our necks that regulates our body's metabolism.

TSH has one job in our bodies.

It tells our thyroid gland when it must make and release two important hormones:

In layman's terms, thyroxine is referred to as T4, and triiodothyronine is called T3. Our bodies can be completely thrown off if they have too much or too little of these hormones.

These hormones are very important for those experiencing hypothyroid disorders.

Hypothyroidism is a term used to describe when a patient's thyroid gland that does not produce enough hormones. Having low levels of t3 and t4 slows down your metabolism and affects many different body functions, including:

  • body temperature
  • appetite
  • activity level
  • as well as many other things.

How to Read the Results

For healthy adults, the normal TSH range is 0.4 - 4.0 milli-international units per liter of blood.

This range jumps to 0.5 and 3.0 milli-international units per liter of blood for patients that are being treated for thyroid disorders.

If our thyroid hormones are low, our bodies will attempt to balance out the hormones. They will produce more TSH to jump-start the number of thyroid hormones that are produced, assuming that our bodies are healthy.

Levels of TSH that are higher than normal can mean many things. Some causes of elevated levels include:


  • Primary hypothyroidism
  • Resistance to the thyroid hormone
  • TSH-dependent hyperthyroidism
  • Congenital hypothyroidism (cretinism)
Levels that are lower than normal are not a good thing either. They can indicate the following:
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • A deficiency of TSH

It is important to remember that an excess of thyroid-stimulating hormones is often related to hyperthyroidism. This is because TSH tells the body to make an excessive amount of hormones, causing an overactive thyroid. Of course, this means that a low amount of TSH tends to signal hypothyroidism or an underactive thyroid.

Hypothyroidism Symptoms

It is more common to have a thyroid that does not produce enough hormones, leading to hypothyroidism. So, how do we tell if someone has hypothyroidism? The following are some of the most common symptoms:
  • Decreased pulse rate
  • Fatigue
  • Hoarse voice, slowed speech
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Excessive weight gain
  • Constipation
  • Dry, coarse hair
  • Numbness in upper extremities
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Dementia
  • Frequent headaches
  • Menstrual cycle problems

These signs and symptoms can be similar to those of hyperthyroidism as well. Only a doctor can properly diagnose a patient, so anyone that experiences several of the symptoms should get tested as soon as possible.

Additionally, children experience some very serious symptoms. They may grow more slowly than their peers. Some will have delayed teething. Most seriously, children with hypothyroidism may experience slow mental development due to the deficiency of TSH.

Testing TSH Levels

Now that we have a little background information, we should discuss how to tell if someone has thyroid-stimulating hormone levels that are within the normal range or not.

The best way to determine this is by consulting a health care provider. He or she can get blood drawn specifically to measure the levels of thyroid-stimulating hormones in the patient’s body. Health care providers can also test specifically for the levels of T3 and T4 in the body.

The thyroid-stimulating hormone test will be ordered if the healthcare provider sees any signs of thyroid function being abnormal. Any suspicion of hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism normally leads to TSH testing, in addition to any other tests that he or she finds appropriate.

The blood draw is done just like any other draw. Blood is typically drawn from the inside of the patient's elbow. Some people experience slight pain and discomfort during the blood draw, but that should go away once the needle is removed. Vials of blood are taken to a lab and tested, and the patient should receive results within a week or so.

Hypothyroidism Complications

If hypothyroidism is determined to be the diagnosis, it is important to remember that it is completely treatable. However, it will involve a lot of contact with a health care provider. Hypothyroidism sufferers need to be monitored frequently, especially at first.

Even though it is treatable, there can be some serious outcomes.

This is mainly true if it goes untreated. Myxedema coma can be caused by untreated hypothyroidism, and it has been known to result in death. Other complications include heart disease, heart failure, heart attack, osteoporosis, joint pain, obesity, and infections.

Pregnant women can have babies with birth defects, or even miscarry, due to their hypothyroidism. Men and women may experience infertility if they are not properly treated. But myxedema coma remains the most serious complication. Signs that someone is entering a myxedema coma include:

  • Low body temperature
  • Decreased breathing
  • Low blood pressure and blood sugar
  • General unresponsiveness

Upon experiencing any of these symptoms while suffering from hypothyroidism, a doctor should be notified immediately. Myxedema coma is relatively uncommon, but it is very serious when it does occur.

Thyroid Treatment

Normally, thyroid levels can be controlled with proper treatment under a healthcare provider’s supervision. This normally means taking thyroid hormone replacements for the continuation of the patient's life, even after he or she is feeling better. The hormone levels of the patient will be monitored by their health care professional at least once a year, but more often for the first few years.

Synthroid is a commonly prescribed medication for hypothyroidism. It replaces the low thyroid hormones.

If this medication is needed, a health care provider should give the patient the lowest dose possible to bring the thyroid-stimulating hormones into the normal range. It is much safer to start with a lower dose and slowly increase, rather than prescribing a dosage that is too high for the patient.

Thyroids in the Tabloids

Thyroid disorders are very common. In fact, many celebrities are coming out and announcing that they suffer from thyroid conditions. The following are just some examples:

  • Oprah Winfrey
  • Kelly Osbourne
  • Jillian Michaels
  • Gena Lee Nolin
  • Missy Elliott
  • Nia Vardalos
  • George Bush
  • Barbara Bush
  • Kim Alexis
  • Linda Ronstadt
  • Mary-Louise Parker

Thyroid problems can affect anyone of any age, race, gender, sexuality, and religion.

Hypothyroidism is most common in women over the age of fifty years of age. However, the list above proves that anyone can suffer from a thyroid condition.

Coping With Thyroid Disorders

For people with thyroid issues, finding a knowledgeable health care provider is a must. Patients should remain under observation to make sure that hormone levels are in the normal range, so a health care provider that is friendly, trustworthy, and intelligent will ensure proper care.

Getting in touch with a nutritionist is very helpful for some people with thyroid conditions as well.

One of the biggest problems with thyroid issues is weight gain that cannot be controlled without the help of a professional. This is often due to the decrease in metabolism that occurs when thyroids act up, which can lead to depression. Getting a diet and exercise regimen planned out by a professional will help your thyroid problems.

Women that suffer from thyroid disorders should consult their health care professionals before trying to conceive.

Infertility, miscarriages, and birth defects are very real possibilities that need to be addressed before attempting to conceive. There are also normal ranges for each trimester of pregnancy, and pregnant thyroid sufferers will have to have their levels monitored throughout the pregnancy to ensure that mother and baby remain healthy until the birth.

Low sex drive, hair loss, and constipation also plague people with thyroid problems.

It is no wonder that depression is a common symptom of hypothyroidism and other thyroid conditions. All of these are great reasons for us to remain in contact with our health care providers, whether we are healthy or not.

Next Article: Thyroid Health | How to Boost T3 and T4 Levels