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Since low thyroid function is not fully understood by medical professionals, getting a diagnosis is sometimes not as straightforward as you might think.

It is important to find a doctor with an open mind, who is willing to examine all the evidence (including your own thoughts), and who will work with you towards a diagnosis.

This page contains the Barnes Basal Temperature test (which you can do at home), in addition to the blood tests that you should ask your doctor about.


Very few conditions are misdiagnosed as much as low thyroid function. As an illness that affects your whole body, it also causes a wide variety of symptoms that are all too easy to confuse for something else.

Many low thyroid sufferers find that their test results are variable, even unpredictable. Some tests may indicate a high level of thyroid dysfunction, even when the subject feels fine. Others will test negative yet be suffering from very severe symptoms.

Sufferers have been diagnosed with depression, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, vitamin deficiencies, Fibromyalgia, Lupus or sleep disorders. Low thyroid function also tends to affect the elderly - many times it is simply mistaken for the signs of aging.

Dr. Barnes Basal Temperature

Here’s a useful test that you can perform at home. It was first suggested by Dr. Broda Barnes. A positive result can be useful evidence to provide to your doctor.

A sub-normal body temperature is a very common symptom of low thyroid function. Although it is not a 100% accurate way to diagnose, it can be a very helpful tool. Here’s what you do:

Basal Temperature Test

When you go to bed at night, put a thermometer on your bedside table.

As soon as you wake up, place the temperature under your armpit. Hit snooze on your alarm clock, wait for 10 minutes, and then take the reading.

Perform this test for four consecutive days and note down the results.

An average temperature lower than 97.8 °F (36.6 °C) means that there is a good chance that you have hypothyroidism.

For women, it’s best to start the test on the second, third, or fourth day of your period. Higher levels of progesterone during the rest of the month can increase your body temperature and distort the test. Men and post-menopausal women can take the test at any time.

Blood Tests

Here are 5 blood tests that you may want to suggest to your physician, and a few notes on how to interpret the results.


Doctors typically start off by testing your levels of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone. TSH is sent to the thyroid gland by your body to instruct it to release thyroid hormones. If you are not producing enough of these thyroid hormones, more TSH is sent. Thus an elevated level of TSH indicates low thyroid function.

The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists reviewed and changed its guidelines in 2003. The normal range for this test has now been reduced to 0.3-3.0. Anything over 3.0 is diagnosed as Hypothyroidism.

It’s important to note that not every lab and doctor is aware of these changes. Some may get a result of 4.2 and still not diagnose your low thyroid function. So make sure you know your results and keep a copy for your records. You may have to seek alternative help if you are not getting better.

Free T4

The normal range for this test is between 0.7 and 2.0. Anything below 0.7 indicates low thyroid function.

Total T4 / Serum Thyroxine

The normal range for this test is from 4.5 to 12.5. Anything below 4.5 indicates low thyroid function.

T3 / Serum Triiodothyronine

The normal range for this test is 80 to 220. Anything below 80 indicates low thyroid function.

Thyroid Peroxidase Antibody (TPO)

Elevated levels of thyroid antibody usually indicate an autoimmune disease (Hashimoto's).

Physical Examination

A doctor will check for any physical signs of low thyroid function, such as dry skin, hair, nails, swelling, slow reflexes or a slower heart-rate.

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