Being informed and knowledgeable about thyroid disease signs, symptoms and risks is an important part of getting properly diagnosed. Complicated or unusual cases of thyroid disorders usually include consultation with an endocrinologist. Thyroid disorder may also be diagnosed by a specialist, such as a gastroenterologist, gynecologist, or psychiatrist, depending on the symptoms you exhibit and who you see to evaluate the symptoms. Specialists who diagnose thyroid disorders include:
Thyroid disorders can be hard to diagnose because their symptoms can be linked to many other health problems. Your doctor can start with a medical history, especially asking whether or not any family members have a history of thyroid disorders. Your doctor should also perform a physical exam and check your neck for thyroid nodules. As part of a thorough clinical evaluation, your doctor typically should perform the following:
Diagnosing thyroid disease is a process that can incorporate numerous factors. Depending on symptoms, your doctor may also do other tests, such as:
Biopsy - A needle biopsy, also known as fine needle aspiration (FNA) is used to help evaluate lumps or nodules. Thyroid cancer can be definitively diagnosed about 75 percent of the time from FNA. Evaluation of biopsy results can also present cells indicative of Hashimoto's thyroiditis.
Blood tests - Blood tests that may be done as part of a thyroid diagnosis include:
- hormone production tests
- antibody tests
- immunoglobulin tests.
CT Scan - can be used too help detect and diagnose a goiter, or larger thyroid nodules
Nuclear Scan / Radioactive Iodine Uptake (RAI-U) - can tell whether a person has Graves' disease, toxic multinodular goiter, or thyroiditis
MRI / Magnetic Resonance Imaging - is used to evaluate the size and shape of the thyroid
Thyroid ultrasound - is used to evaluate nodules, lumps and enlargement of the thyroid or can identify whether a nodule is a fluid-filled cyst, or a mass of solid tissue
Radioactive iodine uptake test - during this test, you ingest a small dose of radioactive iodine which collects in the thyroid; doctors can then measure the amount of radioiodine in the thyroid to know if the thyroid is producing too much or too little thyroid hormones
Thyroid scan - uses an oral dose of radioiodine while a special camera creates an image of thethyroid on a computer screento show whether a thyroid nodule is cancerous, or not
Practitioners sometimes employ other diagnostic tests and procedures to identify thyroid dysfunction. The use of these tests is considered controversial to traditional, allopathic practitioners. However, many of these tests are well-accepted and in use among alternative, integrative and holistic physicians. These tests include:
- iodine patch tests
- saliva testing
- urinary testing
- basal body temperature testing
Watchful waiting, or a period of time during which an individual and their doctor observe their symptoms or condition without using medical treatment, is not appropriate for thyroid disease that is causing symptoms. In all cases, treatment should begin as soon as the condition is diagnosed. To learn more about treatments for thyroid disorders, continue reading the following section for info on lifestyle changes and thyroid medication.