It is estimated that 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid condition, with up to 60% of them unaware they have the disease. Thyroid conditions are relatively common, disproportionately affecting women and people over the age of 50.
Located below the larynx at the front of the neck, the thyroid is a small gland with two lobes connected by a bridge of tissue. Although not big in size, the butterfly-shaped thyroid gland plays a major role in ensuring the proper function of the brain, heart, kidneys, liver, and skin. It’s important to learn if your thyroid is not functioning correctly as soon as possible and to re-check routinely.
Many companies have perfected the ability to deliver state-of-the-art thyroid test kits to your home and then evaluate the sample with outstanding accuracy. We have tested these companies and their products in order to help you determine which at-home thyroid test will be best for you. From the many options, a few testing companies rise above the rest.
Read on for all of the details, but for those in a hurry, here is a summary of our main findings.
Summary of our recommendations for best at-home thyroid test
Both at-home thyroid tests offered are highly recommended and check all of the boxes.
LetsGetChecked is a respected at-home testing company that receives high ratings in terms of value, accuracy, privacy, and customer support.
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- Why you should trust us
- Can you check your thyroid levels at home?
- Who should order a thyroid test?
- LetsGetChecked thyroid testing
- HealthLabs -- our top choice for in-lab thyroid tests
- Everlywell Thyroid Test
- Paloma Health's Thyroid Blood Test Kit
- How the thyroid gland, hormones and antibodies work
- How are thyroid hormones regulated?
- What are the symptoms of thyroid disease?
- How thyroid tests indicate possible disorders
- Are home thyroid tests reliable?
- Challenges associated with testing thyroid function
- Interpreting testing results
- How do we choose our recommendations?
Innerbody Research recently celebrated its 20-year anniversary. Over the past two decades, we have helped tens of millions of readers make more informed decisions about staying healthy and living healthier lifestyles. Our testing team has purchased and compared over 500 health-related tests to date, and we are constantly updating our reviews based on the latest test advances.
This guide, like all medical-related content on our website, is thoroughly vetted by one or more members of our Medical Review Board for accuracy. Additionally, we extensively analyze each health-related service we review. We evaluate the entire customer experience from signing up to the use of the product or service, and then offer unbiased, marketing-jargon-free analysis based on the latest scientific evidence and medical standards.
Yes you can indeed test your thyroid levels at home. Not many people realize that it is now entirely possible to test the functioning of your thyroid from the comfort of your own home via convenient testing kits that you can order online. If you couldn’t test at home, this guide would be much shorter.
Thankfully there are quite a few testing options available now. Most of the at-home test kits involve using a small lancet to prick a finger and collect some droplets of blood. These blood droplets are your test sample, which you will return to the lab for analysis. It’s quick and painless.
The purpose of this guide is to explain:
- How to test for thyroid problems at home.
- What your best testing options are, along with our recommendations.
- Why a well-functioning thyroid is so important to your well-being.
- The symptoms of thyroid disorders.
After reading the guide, you’ll have all the necessary information to decide on the best test for yourself.
Two testing companies – LetsGetChecked and Everlywell – offer very accurate and high-quality thyroid tests that you can use at home. Right now, in our opinion, LetsGetChecked has the superior at-home thyroid tests and so we recommend them above all the rest. However, if you want to order from home but head to a local lab for testing, then HealthLabs should be your choice. Here’s a handy chart comparing these popular test choices based on price and what the tests measure.
|LetsGetChecked Thyroid Test||LetsGetChecked Thyroid Antibody Test||Healthlabs Thyroid Panel w/ TSH||Everlywell|
In the guide below, we share more information about these companies, clarify what all of the different thyroid values mean, and explain why they’re included in the tests.
Getting your thyroid function tested is a good idea no matter who you are, but some populations are statistically at higher risk of developing thyroid conditions:
- Type 1 diabetics and those with other autoimmune disorders
- New mothers
- People who smoke
- Those with a family history of thyroid disorders
- People who have symptoms of hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism
Women are around five to eight times more likely to have thyroid problems, with one in eight women developing thyroid disease during her lifetime.
Since thyroid issues are quite common, periodic testing is a very good idea regardless of whether you are experiencing any symptoms of thyroid dysfunction.
LetsGetChecked is fast, accurate and a fantastic value considering you don’t have to leave your house in order to get reliable test results about your thyroid. It is our top recommendation right now for an at-home thyroid test. Whether you’re looking for a top-level and more affordable test to do proactive checks of your thyroid health or instead want to dive deeper and learn more about potential underlying causes, LetsGetChecked is your best bet.
- The company only partners with lab facilities that are CLIA-, INAB-, CPA-, or CAP-certified
- It offers a free phone consultation with a registered nurse if you test positive for specific medical conditions
- Information about the significance of your levels of each of these biomarkers and how to interpret your results is included with your report
- Live online chat is available to answer pre-purchase questions
- For a limited time, all Innerbody Research readers can save 40% by using the promo code: INNERBODY40
Best for most people: Thyroid Test
The LetsGetChecked Thyroid Test ($99) evaluates thyroid function via analysis of three biomarkers:
- Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH)
- Free triiodothyronine (FT3)
- Free thyroxine (FT4)
This test is ideal for most people because it can effectively indicate whether you have an underlying thyroid disorder. Unless you are symptomatic or have other reasons to suspect that you have a particular thyroid disorder (due to family history, radiation exposure or other reasons), we recommend this test as the first step in checking your thyroid health. It tests the three primary values related to thyroid function; these serve as the solid starting point for identifying whether there is likely a thyroid problem.
Best comprehensive test: Thyroid Antibody Test
The more comprehensive Thyroid Antibody Test ($119) includes analysis of the same three biomarkers as the smaller Thyroid Test, in addition to two more:
- Thyroglobulin antibodies (TgAb)
- Thyroid peroxidase antibodies (TPO/TPEX)
The main difference between the two kits is that the TgAb and TPEX values included in the Thyroid Antibody Test can indicate whether thyroid dysfunction is likely to be related to an autoimmune disorder. The basic Thyroid Test kit can indicate if there may be an issue with your thyroid, but the more comprehensive test provides insights into the underlying cause.
To learn more about LetsGetChecked (they offer a variety of high-quality, recommended tests), visit our full LetsGetChecked review.
Some people would prefer to test in a controlled lab setting and not administer a test themselves. If that describes you, then the good news is that HealthLabs provides an excellent array of in-lab thyroid tests. They are easily our top recommendation for in-lab thyroid testing because:
- You can order your test conveniently from home.
- There’s no appointment necessary.
- With over 4,500 lab locations nationwide, the vast majority of people find a very convenient lab location near them.
- Labs are very high quality – the same labs that analyze tests from doctors’ offices, and the same testing methodology as well.
- Because of the possibility for same-day testing, you can have results within just 2-3 days of ordering the test.
- HealthLabs’ thyroid testing options include thyroid panels as well as single-measurement tests, all of which are reasonably priced.
HealthLabs offers a staggering array of tests for numerous health concerns. You can learn more at our full HealthLabs review.
In general we think very highly of Everlywell. Based on our ample testing of major testing companies, we consider Everlywell a top-notch provider and recommend it over other companies for a number of tests. But in the case of at-home thyroid testing, LetsGetChecked is the winner – you’ll find your best at-home thyroid test options there.
Everlywell’s popular Thyroid Test ($159) evaluates thyroid function by analyzing four measurements:
- Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH)
- TPO (a thyroid antibody)
Symptoms associated with a malfunctioning thyroid include sluggishness, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, unexpected or unusual weight gain (or loss), depression, and more. Tests like this are useful as they provide a sound reason to visit your healthcare provider in the event that your test results show any abnormalities.
If, for whatever reason, you don’t want to use LetGetChecked, Everlywell would be a solid alternative. And you can get 15% off of your purchase using INNERBODY15 as a purchase code. But this test is more expensive than the more comprehensive LetsGetChecked Thyroid Antibody Test.
Since LetsGetChecked offers a cheaper and more comprehensive test, with no predicted difference in how quickly you can get results, it is a better choice for at-home thyroid testing
To learn more about Everlywell and what they do better than everyone else, check out our full Everlywell review.
Another kit provider and telemedicine company, Paloma Health, offers an at-home thyroid test for $99. Paloma could make big waves in this space in the future… But right now, based on our testing, they are still playing catch-up with the other providers.
- Paloma is not yet available across the country, whereas LetsGetChecked is accessible nationwide.
- Slower shipping and processing times mean you can’t get your test results as promptly from Paloma.
At-home testing is a very competitive and growing space, so stay tuned – next year could be a different story. In the meantime, you can learn more about Paloma, as well as its currently limited (but promising) thyroid medical and nutritional consultations, by checking out our full Paloma Health review.
In order to understand how blood tests help to identify thyroid disorders, it’s important to know a little bit about the thyroid and the specific substances these thyroid tests commonly measure.
Shaped a bit like a butterfly and located in your neck, the thyroid is an endocrine gland that secretes hormones into the bloodstream. It serves a number of different functions, most notably regulating your metabolic rate.
When ordering a thyroid test, you will come across a lot of terminology that can be confusing. Here is a breakdown of the common cast of characters in these tests, along with some explanation.
T4 is the main hormone produced by the thyroid gland. It is called “T4”, by the way, because thyroxine contains 4 iodine atoms. In our bodies, T4 plays vital roles in the health of our heart, digestive system, brain, bones, and metabolism.
In our bodies, blood carries T4 to various organs – such as the liver, brain and kidneys, to name a few – where the actions of T4 strip it of an iodine atom, converting the T4 to T3 (triiodothyronine). Though the thyroid gland produces a small amount of T3, the vast majority of our T3 is produced via the conversion from T4 elsewhere in the body.
TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone)
You may wonder how a healthy thyroid knows when to produce T4. This is where TSH enters the picture. When T4 levels in the blood drop low enough, our pituitary gland secretes TSH in order to signal to the thyroid that it’s time to produce more T4.
It’s important for a thyroid blood test to measure “free T4” (sometimes written as FT4 or FTI/T7). Free T4 is the thyroxine that is not bound to proteins and can act on body tissues. It is more useful to measure free T4 – rather than only total T4 – along with TSH in order to detect that a thyroid disorder is present.
Thyroid antibodies (TPO/TPEX and TgAb)
When attacking a dangerous substance like bacteria, for instance, your body’s immune system uses antibodies. But in the case of an autoimmune disorder, our body is unleashing those antibodies on some aspect of itself. In this case, there are autoimmune disorders that attack the thyroid gland. Two common antibodies in this scenario are thyroid peroxidase antibody (TPO/TPEX) and thyroglobulin antibody (TgAb).
TRH (thyrotropin-releasing hormone)
What controls the pituitary gland’s release of TSH? That would be the hypothalamus and its production of TRH. When the hypothalamus produces TRH, the pituitary gland then produces TSH.
Knowing the nature of these different substances reveals why thyroid blood tests are a powerful tool in identifying disorders. You could think of the hormonal regulation of a healthy thyroid as being a little like a thermostat. When a room gets too hot, the thermostat signals to the radiator to stop producing heat. When a room gets too cold, the thermostat signals to the radiator to produce more heat. This constant signaling and responding keeps the room at a stable temperature.
Similarly, based on how much T4 is already present in the bloodstream, hormones from the hypothalamus and pituitary gland signal to the thyroid that it needs to produce more or less T4, in order to keep the organs and systems of our body stable. But what happens when the thermostat or radiator don’t function properly? Abnormal levels of TSH, T3, and/or T4 indicate that the finely tuned system is out of balance.
Problems with the thyroid usually result in the overproduction or underproduction of thyroid hormones and/or TSH.
The overproduction of thyroid hormones, known as hyperthyroidism, can be caused by conditions such as:
- Graves’ disease (an autoimmune disease, and the most common cause of hyperthyroidism)
- Toxic adenomas (nodules developing in the gland which secrete extra thyroid hormones)
- Subacute thyroiditis (inflammation of the thyroid that results in the leaking of extra hormones)
- Dysfunction of the pituitary gland as it regulates the action of the thyroid, causing excess production of thyroid hormones.
Hypothyroidism is the underproduction of thyroid hormones. This can be caused by:
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (an autoimmune disorder)
- Exposure to toxic levels of iodine.
Conditions arise when the thyroid is either overactive in its hormone production, or is underactive and producing too little. Overactive thyroid glands create a condition called hyperthyroidism, while an underactive thyroid gland results in hypothyroidism.
Common symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- Gaining weight without eating more
- Muscle pain or weakness
- Digestion issues like constipation
- Foggy memory
- Feeling unusually chilly
- Concentration difficulties
- Skin and/or hair dryness
- Bradycardia (slow heart rate)
- Frequent and/or heavy periods
Common symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:
- Rapid heart rate
- Irregular heartbeat
- Losing weight
- Feeling overheated
- Sweating more
- Increased hunger
- Frequent bowel movements
- Anxiety and heightened nervousness
- Shaky, trembling hands
- Sleep problems and disturbance
- Weakened skin, nails and hair
- Muscle weakness
- Missed and/or light menstrual periods
Thyroid tests such as the at-home test kits in this guide use blood to measure the amount of thyroid hormones circulating in the body. These can be used alongside other tests to get more detailed information about an underlying disorder.
The TSH level is a very important measurement – often the first hormone measured – when investigating a potential thyroid problem. High levels of TSH may suggest that the thyroid is underactive as a result of a problem affecting the gland directly. Conversely, low levels of TSH suggest that the thyroid is overactive.
But this may be due to a problem affecting the thyroid directly or a problem affecting the function of the pituitary gland, which in turn is affecting the thyroid. There is quite a bit of important insight that a TSH measurement alone cannot provide. For example, the TSH blood test does not give any information on the amount of T4 being converted into T3, or if T3 receptors are resistant to the T3 hormone. A TSH blood test alone also can’t tell us if the thyroid is being attacked by the immune system, or if the body is deficient in minerals and vitamins needed for thyroid health.
Additionally measuring the T4 and T3 values in a thyroid panel will give doctors much more information that can help you arrive at a quicker diagnosis. The three values together – TSH, T4 and T3 – provide a baseline for understanding whether a thyroid disorder may be present.
The thyroid hormone T4 (thyroxine) circulates in the blood in two forms:
- Bound to proteins and consequently prevented from entering cells
- “Free” and able to enter cells
Measuring free T4 (FT4) together with TSH is most useful when assessing the function of the thyroid.
- Low FT4 alongside high TSH could signal hypothyroidism (an underperforming thyroid gland). This type of test result suggests that the pituitary gland is evidently producing more TSH in order to signal to your thyroid gland that it ought to make more T4. Yet, in spite of this, the thyroid is not producing enough T4 to reach normal levels.
- Meanwhile, if your TSH level is elevated but your levels of T4 and T3 are normal, you might have what is known as subclinical hypothyroidism.
- If your T4 and T3 levels are above normal, while your TSH level is low, then you may have hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid). In this case, your pituitary gland is not telling the thyroid to produce more T4, and yet the thyroid is evidently producing excessive amounts of it.
T3 testing is usually used in combination with the above tests to determine the severity of hyperthyroidism. The higher the levels are, the worse the thyroid is functioning. It is rarely helpful in the diagnosis of hypothyroidism, as the levels of T3 are often normal in that condition.
Thyroid antibody testing
When a blood test of TSH, free T4 and T3 produces results that suggest a disorder, the next step is a further diagnostic work-up to identify the cause. This often includes using a blood sample to measure common thyroid antibodies such as TPO/TPEX and TgAb, in addition to other exams.
The measurement of thyroid antibodies can determine if the thyroid is under attack from the immune system. Your immune system protects your body against foreign invaders such as bacteria by sending antibodies to destroy them. These antibodies are produced by white blood cells known as lymphocytes and sometimes target the thyroid.
In individuals with hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, lymphocytes are often producing antibodies that stimulate or damage the thyroid.
- Hashimoto’s disease – also called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis – is an autoimmune disease in which your own body’s immune system attacks your thyroid, leading to hypothyroidism. Here, the TPO/TPEX and TgAb antibodies may be detected alongside low free T4 and elevated TSH.
- Graves’ disease is another autoimmune disease that causes hyperthyroidism (in which the thyroid produces too much T4). With Graves’ disease, TPO/TPEX will often be detected in the blood, in addition to the other signs of hyperthyroidism presented by TSH, T4 and T3 levels.
Thyroid tests that measure TSH, free T4, T3 and also thyroid antibodies provide an excellent window into the functioning of the thyroid gland and the potential underlying causes of abnormal test results.
At-home thyroid tests are very reliable and accurate. The top testing companies – which includes all of the companies we compare in this guide – partner only with certified labs of the caliber that health centers use for analysis. For thyroid testing, these companies rely on proven blood sampling methods to deliver accurate results. The instructions for this kind of test thankfully are straightforward, and your kit will include all of the information and materials that you’ll need to administer it correctly.
As long as you follow the instructions in your at-home test kit, your lab tests should be as accurate as if you were to have a test administered in an office setting.
The perfect thyroid test would analyze the levels of thyroid hormones in all of the body’s cells. Unfortunately, this is not possible. Instead, information about the levels of the hormones in the cells must be interpreted by measuring the levels in the blood.
The difficulties with thyroid testing are often a result of this indirect measuring not being effective at communicating complex interactions and processes at a cellular level. For example, the cells of the body might not be actively taking in the hormones, as the receptors have become resistant. This would mean the blood levels of the hormone would appear normal but may still cause unpleasant or dangerous symptoms.
If you suspect you might have a problem with your thyroid, a doctor will investigate by recording your symptoms and examining your neck to feel if your thyroid might be enlarged. This can be a good indicator of thyroid disease. Usually, blood tests are taken to analyze the amount of thyroid hormones in circulation.
The interpretation of thyroid blood tests can also be problematic. Reference ranges are used to determine low, normal, or high levels of thyroid hormones. While these are based on a wide range of studies, what is “normal” to the population is not necessarily “normal” to the individual. Each person has a different hormonal and chemical composition, and deviations from normal references may be normal for the individual.
Additionally, because these references have been calculated using statistics and are based on averages, the closer the test results are to either the lower or higher limit, the greater the uncertainty whether the patient has thyroid disease. Likewise, if results are within the reference range but close to the limits, symptoms may still be present.
For these reasons, blood tests should be seen as a way to confirm a diagnosis made based on the wide clinical picture, including symptoms, medical history, physical examination, and imaging (e.g., ultrasound of the thyroid gland). Blood testing results should not be dismissed as normal without consideration of other factors.
We customize our evaluation criteria depending on the type and nature of the test. For most health-related tests, we have five areas that we use for our evaluations, including:
Accuracy: Do the testing companies use the latest and most accurate testing technologies available? How accurate are the tests compared to alternatives?
Value: Are you getting your money’s worth? Are there any hidden costs or charges? Does the test provider offer discounts to our readers?
Customer Support: How well does the testing company help you choose the best test? How clearly are the results presented? How well does the testing company help you understand results and get treatment if necessary?
Privacy: Are all test kits sent in discreet packaging? Will your data be stored securely? Could your data ever be shared without your permission?
Test Results Speed: How fast will you receive your test results from the moment you click “buy?” Are the waiting times stated by the testing companies accurate and consistent?