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What Happens if TSH Level is High?

What Happens if TSH Level is High?

High levels of TSH or thyroid stimulating hormone in the blood is usually an indication of underperformance of the thyroid gland. What happens if the TSH level is high is that it is an indication of hypothyroidism and requires medical attention to avoid potential health complications.

The anterior pituitary gland produces the TSH or thyroid stimulating hormone. The function of TSH is stimulating the thyroid gland to produce triiodothyronine (T3) or thyroxine (T4). These hormones (T3 & T4) then help in stimulating the metabolism of the body. The pituitary gland produces TSH to stimulate the thyroid gland, but if the thyroid gland does not respond, then it leads to an increased amount of TSH in the blood. Some of the causes for this include illness, stress, obstruction or any type of surgery, which causes the thyroid gland to act sluggish or malfunction.

What Happens if TSH Level is High?

What is the Normal Range of TSH?f

Normal TSH Level: The normal levels of TSH range from 0.4-4.2 mU/L and this indicates that the pituitary gland signals match the thyroid gland activity.

High TSH: As mentioned before, high TSH level is usually caused due to an underactive thyroid gland or hypothyroidism. This is also referred to as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. If a person already as an existing thyroid condition, then a high TSH level means that you need to increase the dosage of the thyroid medication. Rarely, high TSH levels can also be an indication of a tumor, which is causing the overproduction of TSH from the pituitary gland.

Low TSH: Low levels of TSH can indicate that a person may have an overactive thyroid gland due to conditions, such as goiter, Graves’s disease or noncancerous tumors. The thyroid gland can also become overactive in the 1st trimester of pregnancy. If a person has existing thyroid problems and takes excessive thyroid medication, then it can also result in low TSH level.

Causes of High TSH Level

Hypothyroidism: This is a medical condition where the body is not able to produce sufficient hormones to manage your metabolism adequately. The symptoms of Hypothyroidism include dry skin, thinning hair, increased sensitivity to cold, muscle aches, impaired memory, unexplained weight gain, puffy face, constipation, hoarseness, fatigue, increased cholesterol level, depression and irregular menstrual periods. Some of the causes for this condition to develop are surgery, radiation therapy, psychiatric medications and autoimmune diseases. Treatment for hypothyroidism consists of medications, which will artificially replace these hormones.

Thyroid Disorder: These include thyroid cancer, enlarged thyroid gland or abnormal production of hormone which can cause malfunction of the thyroid gland. Treatment is needed for some of these conditions otherwise patient may experience unpleasant side effects, such as slow metabolism which causes damage to the body.

Pituitary Tumors: Rarely, high TSH level may indicate improper functioning of the pituitary gland. Sometimes, this can be due to growth of a group of cells on top of the pituitary gland (tumors). Most of the time, these tumors are noncancerous, however, they do disturb the bodily functions which leads to other negative side effects. High TSH level or overproduction of TSH results in an overactive thyroid gland.

Determining the TSH Level

To determine TSH level in the body, a TSH test is done which analyzes the level of TSH in the blood. This test is done if the patient starts to display signs of a malfunctioning thyroid. A person suffering from a sluggish thyroid gland will have a high TSH level; and a person with an overactive thyroid gland will have a low TSH level.

The two hormones that are important for controlling the metabolism of the body are triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). It usually takes 2 to 3 days for the results of the TSH test to be available. If the thyroid hormones are outside the normal range, then treatment needs to be started once the cause for this is identified.


  1. Mayo Clinic – Hypothyroidism: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hypothyroidism/symptoms-causes/syc-20350284
  2. WebMD – Thyroid Blood Tests: https://www.webmd.com/women/thyroid-blood-tests#1
  3. Cleveland Clinic – Pituitary Tumors: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15396-pituitary-gland-tumors
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 2, 2023

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