What Is a Thyroglobulin Antibody Test?

What to Expect

The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped organ at the base of the front of your neck. It creates essential hormones for the body to function correctly. Thyroid hormones play a role in your body’s metabolism, growth, and development. They produce energy, regulate body temperature, control weight, and more.

To synthesize hormones, your thyroid produces several proteins such as thyroglobulin, the most abundant protein in the gland. Your body can utilize thyroglobulin to generate T4 and the active T3 form of thyroid hormones.

If you have a problem with your thyroid gland, such as in the case of an autoimmune disease, your thyroglobulin levels may fall outside the normal range. In autoimmune diseases, your body begins to attack its healthy tissues, causing inflammation and damage. When an autoimmune process occurs in the thyroid, thyroglobulin is often a likely target. As your body attacks thyroglobulin, your thyroid produces antibodies.

Your healthcare provider may decide to order a thyroglobulin antibody test (which can also be called an antithyroglobulin antibody test or thyroid antibody test) to evaluate the level of antibodies present in your bloodstream.

An abnormal test result may indicate that you have an autoimmune thyroid condition like:        

  • Overactive thyroid or Grave’s disease
  • Hashimoto thyroiditis
  • Underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Type 1 diabetes

Purpose of the Test

A thyroglobulin antibody test is used to determine if you have an underlying thyroid issue. Thyroid antibodies are destructive to the thyroglobulin protein, so your doctor may order the test to gain a clearer understanding of what could be causing you to feel unwell. Symptoms that could indicate a possible underactive thyroid condition include:

  • Fatigue
  • Dry skin, hair, and nails
  • Weight gain
  • Digestive problems (especially constipation)
  • Constantly feeling cold
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Depression
  • Decreased sweating
  • Forgetfulness or brain fog
  • Joint or muscle pain

Symptoms that may indicate an overactive thyroid include:

  • Fatigue (can be present when the thyroid is under or overactive)
  • Feeling weak
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Feelings of anxiousness, anxiety, or irritability
  • Increased sweating
  • Heat intolerance
  • Rapid heart rate or changes in heart rhythm
  • Feeling shaky

Additionally, the thyroglobulin antibody test may be ordered in conjunction with other thyroid blood tests, including

  • Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH)
  • T4 hormone (also known as thyroxine)
  • T3 hormone (also known as triiodothyronine)

Risks and Contraindications

The risks associated with a thyroglobulin antibody test are considered minimal and are comparable to those of other blood tests you might have had done before. Occasionally, your doctor or technician can have some difficulties getting a sample on the first try because some veins can be hard to locate, or they may shift positions during the test.

In a circumstance like this, the needle would need to be inserted another time to obtain a sample. Additionally, you may experience mild pain, bruising, or a stinging sensation at the insertion of the needle, but the discomfort should subside quickly.

If you are prone to feeling faint or lightheaded whenever your blood is taken, feel free to tell your nurse or technician so that you can remain seated in the chair for a few extra minutes or have the blood test done in a lying position.

Before the Test

Be sure to tell your doctor about any medications, herbs, and supplements (including over-the-counter ones) you’re taking.

Since this test measures thyroid antibodies and can be done in conjunction with other thyroid tests, your doctor may ask you to stop taking medications that could alter your thyroid levels.

Examples of these medications include thyroid replacement, steroids, heart medications, among others.

Your doctor will provide you with specific instructions for taking this blood test, but you will most likely need to avoid eating and drinking for several hours (or overnight) before having your blood drawn.

On the day of the test, wear a short-sleeve shirt or something with sleeves you can roll or pull up, which will allow for easy access to the veins in your arms. Also, be sure to bring your insurance card and a form of identification with you so that the healthcare facility can bill your insurance carrier. Keep in mind that reimbursement for testing varies among insurance companies, so you may need to speak to your carrier to determine if you need pre-approval when having a thyroglobulin antibody test.

During the Test

If you’ve had your blood drawn before, this test will be very similar to a traditional blood draw. At most labs, you’ll be seated in a chair with one arm resting in front of you to draw the blood. The lab technician, nurse, or another healthcare provider will wrap an elastic band around your arm to temporarily restrict blood flow and locate a vein. Then, they will disinfect the area with alcohol using an alcohol swab or pad.

Next, the needle will be inserted into your arm, and a tube that collects the blood sample will be placed at the base of the syringe. Once enough blood is drawn for the test, the lab technician will loosen the elastic band, remove the needle, and place a bandage over the insertion site.

After the Test

After the test, your doctor will let you know when it’s okay to resume eating and taking your medications. Your arm may feel a bit sore where the blood was taken, but it should go away in a day or two. Otherwise, you can usually go back to your normal activities and await any specific follow-up instructions from your doctor.  

Interpreting the Results

The reference range for the tests can differ from one lab to another.

However, if no antibodies are found in your blood, this is considered a negative and normal test result.

But if your test is positive, meaning antibodies were present in your blood, this could indicate there’s a problem with your thyroid glands such as hypothyroidism, Grave’s disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, or another condition. Be sure to speak to your doctor or healthcare professional who can more accurately determine any underlying health issues.

A Word From Verywell

If you receive a positive test result from your thyroglobulin antibody test, try not to panic. There are several reasons for a positive test as well as many available treatment options. Make sure you have a doctor whom you trust. Do your best to convey your questions and concerns honestly so that you’ll feel most at ease with whatever decisions you’ll need to make for your health. 

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