What Are High TSH Levels And What Do They Mean?
If you have experienced symptoms such as mild depression, sudden fatigue, weakness or sudden weight gain, you may want to make an appointment with your doctor to get tested for high TSH levels. TSH, or thyroid stimulating hormone, is responsible for the stimulating the production of thyroxine (T4), and triidothyronine (T3). Excessive levels of TSH can lead to a condition known as hypothyroidism, where the thyroid actually begins producing too little of these hormones. The condition, when caused by problems in the thyroid, is simple enough to diagnose and treat, but if left unaddressed, hypothyroidism can lead to a host of other health conditions such as stroke, heart attack, osteoporosis, and many more.
High TSH levels occur when the thyroid fails to produce enough T4 and T3. As the thyroid begins to fail in its production duties, the pituitary gland, the source of TSH, secretes larger amounts of TSH to try and kick start the thyroid into producing on its own. While elevated TSH is usually a pituitary reaction to a malfunctioning thyroid, occasionally it can indicate an issue with the pituitary gland unrelated to the thyroid. For this reason, both the thyroid and pituitary should be examined to find the root cause of the elevated hormones.
What would be classified as excessively high TSH levels? The general acceptable range for TSH is between 0.4 and 4.0 mlU/L. Anything above 4.0 results in hypothyroidism, with levels of 2.0 or above as what is referred to as sub clinical hypothyroidism. During this period, it is common to experience a range of symptoms commonly associated with clinical hypothyroidism, but to a lesser degree.
Some populations are more susceptible to dealing with high TSH levels. Pregnant women, for one, can have issues with TSH if they have experienced thyroid problems in the past, or if they develop an iodine deficiency during their pregnancy. Regardless, elevated TSH can pose the normal health issues in the mother, as well as a number of problems for the unborn child. Children whose mothers were treated with medications for elevated TSH are sometimes born with temporary hypothyroidism due to the mother’s requirement of treatment during pregnancy.
Another population that should get special consideration are children past the newborn age. Children are generally considered to have excessive levels of TSH with anything above 5 mlU/L. The resulting thyroid conditions in children can lead to stunted growth, problems with normal and healthy bowel movements, weakness, yellow and dry skin, and premature sexual development. To offset the elevated TSH levels, the treatment is similar to that of adults, with medications such as Levothroid or other variations of the drug to elevate thyroid hormones and reduce TSH.
High TSH levels can be indicative of several conditions, all with potentially nasty results if not treated. Simple blood tests and exams can help your doctor to determine the cause as well as the best course of treatment. If you have experienced the symptoms in this article, you should consult with your physician to get treatment and make the necessary lifestyle changes.