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Thyroid Awareness Month: What POC Tests Reveal (and What They Don’t)

by Hanson Medical Systems

Point of care diagnostics often referred to simply as “POC tests,” are revolutionary resources when it comes to healthcare. They are fast, convenient, and can help us identify underlying health issues. Some conditions, like diabetes, rely on POC tests for quick life-saving information, but this technology can be expanded to many other diagnoses.

January is Thyroid Awareness Month, which is the perfect time to get a snapshot of your current thyroid health. POC tests can tell us a lot of information about the overall health of the thyroid, but they do have limitations. Here is what point of care thyroid testing can and cannot tell you about your health.

What POC Thyroid Tests Can Tell You

A typical POC thyroid test, like Hanson’s HMS Diagnostix TSH-Thyroid Test, is able to measure the level of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) in your blood. TSH is produced by our pituitary gland in our brain and is responsible for controlling the number of hormones released by the thyroid.

A POC thyroid test can tell you how much your thyroid is working by measuring your body’s TSH levels. If TSH levels are elevated, that may mean that the thyroid is working too hard, and can point to a condition known as hyperthyroidism. Likewise, when TSH levels are too low, that could indicate that the thyroid is not working hard enough. This could suggest another condition referred to as hypothyroidism.

TSH testing is a valuable tool when it comes to getting a preliminary look at thyroid function. A simple fingerstick is all that is needed. One drop of blood can determine if our TSH levels fall within normal ranges. While abnormal results do not definitively mean that an undiagnosed thyroid condition is present, they do alert us to the need for additional testing.

What POC Thyroid Tests Can Tell You

Although point of care thyroid tests can tell you a lot about your health, they do not reveal the entire story. Diagnosing thyroid conditions takes time and extensive testing. Comprehensive thyroid testing requires doctors to measure not only TSH levels but other hormones produced by the thyroid, such as thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3).

The conclusion that someone is suffering from hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism (or any other thyroid condition) would not be accurate until this additional testing is performed. Because of this, a POC thyroid test alone would not provide adequate information for a formal diagnosis.

Likewise, a POC thyroid test does not account for the many factors that influence TSH levels in our blood. TSH levels change all throughout the day, and certain medications can skew results. Pregnancy, nutritional imbalances, and other medical conditions can influence the amount of TSH present too. Only a medical professional will be able to rule out any factors that cause you to have TSH levels that are too high or too low.

A POC test is an important first step in understanding thyroid health. Point of care devices can reveal underlying health conditions, alert us when we need additional medical attention and are an important means of proactive healthcare. However, POC tests cannot provide all the information we need. An overall picture of our current health and lifestyle, as well as extensive testing, is usually needed before doctors can diagnose any condition, including those that affect the thyroid

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