A thyroid problem is a normal problem
Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)
It is especially important for infants and children that their thyroid gland is functioning normally. A deficiency in thyroid hormones can seriously affect a child's physical and mental development. Therefore, thyroid hormone levels are routinely measured in all newborns. Overall, the probability of congenital hypothyroidism is very low: only about one in 4000 newborns is born with a thyroid problem.
In adults, there is no scientific evidence that measuring hormone levels is useful for early detection. But it has different risks. A relatively large number of people have slightly elevated TSH levels; it is estimated that this is around 5 to 10% of the population. If the TSH value is increased, but sufficient thyroid hormones are produced, this is called "latent" hypothyroidism.
However, elevated TSH levels do not necessarily mean that an underactive thyroid with symptoms is imminent. Every year, an average of 3 to 4 out of 100 people with high TSH levels develop symptoms that require treatment. The risk of this increases if the TSH level is significantly increased or the blood contains certain ones. Women are at higher risk than men.
Since TSH levels alone tell little, routine testing could result in unnecessary treatment and worry.
There are other reasons that speak against a routine measurement of the TSH value without specific suspicion: So far there has been no generally recognized limit as to when a TSH value is “too high”. In addition, the hormone levels are subject to natural fluctuations. Slightly increased TSH levels even recede relatively often, sometimes even after a longer period of time. A different value does not mean a disease.
The TSH level increases somewhat with age. It is therefore being discussed whether other limit values would make sense for older people than for younger people. Even in childhood and adolescence, the TSH values are often slightly higher because the body is still developing.
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