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What do dangerously high TSH levels indicate?

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Quick Answer

Very high levels of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone indicate an underactive thyroid gland, or hypothyroidism, according to EndocrineWeb. High levels of TSH, which is diagnosed by blood tests, mean that the body is attempting to coax the thyroid gland into producing more of the thyroid hormone.

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Older women are especially prone to hypothyroidism, which disturbs the normal balance of chemical reactions in the body, states Mayo Clinic. The most common causes of hypothyroidism and its associated slower metabolism are inflammation of the thyroid gland or surgical removal of part or all of the gland during treatment for other diseases such as cancer.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism include fatigue, weakness, weight gain or difficulty losing weight, dry hair, rough skin, hair loss, sensitivity to cold, muscle cramps, constipation, depression, irritability, memory loss, irregular menstrual periods and low libido, according to Mayo Clinic. Sustained high levels of TSH can result in the formation of a goiter, or enlarged thyroid gland. Untreated hypothyroidism can lead to obesity, joint pain, infertility and heart disease.

Hypothyroidism can be managed with a daily dose of thyroid pills, and the dosage must be tailored to the individual patient. If the dosage is too low, symptoms may continue while too much thyroid hormone can increase the risk of osteoporosis or heart attack, according to Mayo Clinic.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    What do low TSH levels mean?

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    According to About.com, low levels of TSH, or thyroid-stimulating hormone, occur when the pituitary gland shuts down TSH production due to high levels of thyroid hormone in the blood. The low levels of TSH are the pituitary gland's attempt to keep thyroid hormone levels normal within the body.

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  • Q:

    What are some causes of low TSH levels?

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    Causes of low thyroid-stimulating hormone, or TSH, levels include hyperthyroidism; a damaged pituitary gland that is unable to make TSH, called secondary hypothyroidism; and taking excess thyroid medicine when treating an underactive thyroid gland, explains WebMD. Women may experience low TSH levels in the first three months of pregnancy.

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  • Q:

    What causes high TSH levels?

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    Causes of high thyroid-stimulating hormone, or TSH, levels include hypothyroidism, excess anti-thyroid medication and a tumor in the pituitary gland, according to LabTestsOnline. TSH is produced in the pituitary gland, and it is partly responsible for energy metabolism, so high levels indicate dysfunction in either the thyroid or pituitary gland.

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  • Q:

    What are the symptoms of elevated TSH levels?

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    High thyroid-stimulating hormone levels are usually an indication of hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism may cause symptoms such as dry skin, weight gain, loss of hair, puffy skin and cold intolerance. The normal TSH value ranges from 0.4 to 4.0 milli-international units per liter, according to MedlinePlus.

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