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TSH - Thyroid - stimulating Hormone

TSH is short for thyroid- stimulating hormone. It is produced by the pituitary gland. Apart from TSH pituitary gland produces several more hormones. The basic function of TSH is to stimulate the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormones T3 and T4.

TSH is typically increased if the thyroid gland does not function properly and does not secrete sufficient amount of thyroid hormones. Apart from disorders of thyroid gland even certain processes which affect the pituitary gland may lead to increased production of TSH and consequent high level of this hormone in the blood.

Symptoms of High TSH Levels

There are many symptoms which develop due to increased level of TSH and the symptoms may vary in patients. In case that the person is suffering from hypothyroidism and if this medical condition leads to increased levels of TSH the symptoms usually include fatigue, constipation, weight gain and swelling, mild depression, brittle nails, cold and dry skin, hair loss, decreased tolerance to cold, and reduced libido. Women may additionally suffer from abnormal periods. If hypothyroidism is left untreated it may lead to myxedema coma, a life-threatening condition.

If high TSH originates from hormonally active tumor of the pituitary gland patients may develop symptoms and signs related to the growth of the tumor inside the cranium and compression of the surrounding brain structures. These symptoms include headache, problems with vision, seizures etc.

Diagnosing High TSH

The level of TSH can be easily measured by taking samples of the blood. The doctor performs several more tests including measuring of the T3 and T4 levels. Namely, if high TSH is caused by hypothyroidism the level of T3 and T4 is going to be low. On the other side, if the level of T3 and T4 is normal and TSH is increased the doctor may assume that the cause of high TSH is connected to the presence of the pituitary gland tumor. In order to set the correct diagnosis the doctor performs CT scan or MRI of the head.

Treatment for High TSH

Treatment for high TSH level can start only after the underlying cause has been identified. If the patient is suffering from hypothyroidism he/ she is prescribed hormonal therapy, a substitution for the lack of thyroid hormones. The medications are taken orally and they successfully bring the high TSH levels under control.

On the other hand, if high TSH level is a consequence of increased production by the pituitary gland tumor the patients are in majority of cases treated surgically.

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