A TSH test measures the amount of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) in your blood. TSH is produced by the pituitary gland. It prompts the thyroid gland to make and release thyroid hormones into the blood.
A blood sample is needed. Other thyroid tests that may be done at the same time include:
There is no preparation needed for this test. Ask your health care provider about any medicines you are taking that may affect the test results. DO NOT stop taking any medicines without first asking your provider.
Medicines you may need to stop for a short time include:
The vitamin biotin (B7) can affect the results of the TSH test. If you take biotin, talk to your provider before you have any thyroid function tests.
When the needle is inserted to draw blood, some people feel moderate pain. Others feel only a prick or stinging. Afterward, there may be some throbbing or a slight bruise. This soon goes away.
Your provider will order this test if you have symptoms or signs of an overactive or underactive thyroid gland. It is also used to monitor treatment of these conditions.
Your provider may also check your TSH level if you are planning to get pregnant.
Normal values range from 0.5 to 5 microunits per milliliter (µU/mL).
TSH values can vary during the day. It is best to have the test early in the morning. Experts do not fully agree on what the upper number should be when diagnosing thyroid disorders.
Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Some labs use different measurements or test different samples. Talk to your provider about the meaning of your specific test results.
If you are being treated for a thyroid disorder, your TSH level will likely be kept between 0.5 and 4.0 µU/mL, except when:
A higher-than-normal TSH level is most often due to an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism). There are many causes of this problem.
A lower-than-normal level may be due to an overactive thyroid gland, which can be caused by:
Use of certain medicines may also cause a lower-than-normal TSH level. These include glucocorticoids/steroids, dopamine, certain chemotherapy drugs, and opioid painkillers such as morphine.
There is little risk involved with having your blood taken.Veins and arteries vary in size from one person to another and from one side of the body to the other. Obtaining a blood sample from some people may be more difficult than from others.
Other risks associated with having blood drawn are slight, but may include:
Reviewed By: Brent Wisse, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology & Nutrition, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.