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Thyroid Antibodies

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Also known as: Thyroid Autoantibodies; Antithyroid Antibodies; Antimicrosomal Antibody; Thyroid Microsomal Antibody; Thyroperoxidase Antibody; TPOAb; Anti-TPO; TBII; Antithyroglobulin Antibody; TgAb; TSH Receptor Antibody; TRAb; Thyrotropin (TSH) Receptor Antibodies; Thyroid Stimulating Immunoglobulin; TSI
Formal name: Thyroid Peroxidase Antibody (TPOAb); Thyroglobulin Antibody (TgAb); Thyroid Stimulating Hormone Receptor Antibody (TRAb)
Related tests: T3; T4; TSH; Thyroglobulin

At a Glance

Why Get Tested?

To help diagnose and monitor autoimmune thyroid diseases and to distinguish these from other forms of thyroid disease; to help guide treatment decisions

When to Get Tested?

When you have a goiter and/or when your other thyroid tests, such as T3, T4, and TSH, indicate thyroid dysfunction; along with a thyroglobulin test when your doctor is using it as a monitoring tool; at intervals recommended by your doctor when you have a known autoimmune thyroid disorder

Sample Required?

A blood sample drawn from a vein in your arm

Test Preparation Needed?

None

The Test Sample

What is being tested?

Thyroid autoantibodies are antibodies that develop when a person's immune system mistakenly targets components of the thyroid gland or thyroid proteins, leading to chronic inflammation of the thyroid (thyroiditis), tissue damage, and/or disruption of thyroid function. These tests detect the presence and measure the quantity of specific thyroid autoantibodies.

Location of the thyroidThe thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland that lies flat against the windpipe in the throat. The primary hormones that it produces, thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), are vital in helping to regulate the rate at which we use energy – our metabolism. The body has a feedback system that utilizes thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) to help turn thyroid hormone production on and off and maintain a stable amount of the thyroid hormones in the bloodstream. When thyroid antibodies interfere with this process, they can lead to chronic conditions and autoimmune disorders associated with hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, such as Graves disease or Hashimoto thyroiditis.

One or more of the following tests may be performed to help establish a diagnosis of and/or monitor an autoimmune thyroid disorder:

  • Thyroperoxidase antibody (TPO)—a marker for autoimmune thyroid disease; it can be detected in Graves disease or Hashimotos thyroiditis.
  • Thyroglobulin antibody (TGAb)—also a marker, this antibody targets thyroglobulin, the storage form of thyroid hormones.
  • Thyroid stimulating hormone receptor antibodies (TSHRAb)—includes two types of autoantibodies that bind to TSH receptors in the thyroid:
    • Thyroid stimulating immunoglobulin (TSI) binds to receptors and promotes the production of thyroid hormones, leading to hyperthyroidism.
    • Thyroid binding inhibitory immunoglobulin (TBII) blocks TSH from binding to receptors, blocking production of thyroid hormones and resulting in hypothyroidism.

TBII is not routinely tested, but TSI is often used to help diagnose Graves disease.

How is the sample collected for testing?

A blood sample is obtained by inserting a needle into a vein in the arm.

NOTE: If undergoing medical tests makes you or someone you care for anxious, embarrassed, or even difficult to manage, you might consider reading one or more of the following articles: Coping with Test Pain, Discomfort, and Anxiety, Tips on Blood Testing, Tips to Help Children through Their Medical Tests, and Tips to Help the Elderly through Their Medical Tests.

Another article, Follow That Sample, provides a glimpse at the collection and processing of a blood sample and throat culture.

Is any test preparation needed to ensure the quality of the sample?

No test preparation is needed.

The Test

Common Questions

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Article Sources

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NOTE: This article is based on research that utilizes the sources cited here as well as the collective experience of the Lab Tests Online Editorial Review Board. This article is periodically reviewed by the Editorial Board and may be updated as a result of the review. Any new sources cited will be added to the list and distinguished from the original sources used.

Sources Used in Current Review

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Shehzad T. (2012 June 4). Antithyroglobulin antibody. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003557.htm. Accessed February 2012.

Meikle, A. and Roberts, W. (Updated 2011 October). Autoimmune Thyroid Disease – Thyroiditis. ARUP Consult [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.arupconsult.com/Topics/Thyroiditis.html?client_ID=LTD through http://www.arupconsult.com. Accessed August 2012.

(© 1995-2012). Test ID: TGAB Thyroglobulin Antibody, Serum. Mayo Clinic Mayo Medical Laboratories [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.mayomedicallaboratories.com/test-catalog/Overview/84382 through http://www.mayomedicallaboratories.com. Accessed August 2012.

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Pagana, K. D. & Pagana, T. J. (© 2011). Mosby's Diagnostic and Laboratory Test Reference 10th Edition: Mosby, Inc., Saint Louis, MO. Pp 108-109, 110-111.

Clarke, W., Editor (© 2011). Contemporary Practice in Clinical Chemistry 2nd Edition: AACC Press, Washington, DC. Pp 445-446.

(March 7, 2012) National Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases Information. Hyperthyroidism. Available online at http://www.endocrine.niddk.nih.gov/pubs/hyperthyroidism/index.aspx through http://www.endocrine.niddk.nih.gov. Accessed August 2012.

(Feb 27, 2012) National Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases Information. Hypothyroidism. Available online at http://www.endocrine.niddk.nih.gov/pubs/hypothyroidism/index.aspx through http://www.endocrine.niddk.nih.gov. Accessed August 2012.

(April 6, 2012) National Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases Information. Thyroid Function Tests. Available online at http://www.endocrine.niddk.nih.gov/pubs/thyroidtests/index.aspx through http://www.endocrine.niddk.nih.gov. Accessed August 2012.

Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 21st ed. McPherson R, Pincus M, eds. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier: 2007, Pp 953-954.

Sources Used in Previous Reviews

Thomas, Clayton L., Editor (1997). Taber's Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary. F.A. Davis Company, Philadelphia, PA [18th Edition].

Pagana, Kathleen D. & Pagana, Timothy J. (2001). Mosby's Diagnostic and Laboratory Test Reference 5th Edition: Mosby, Inc., Saint Louis, MO.

Christopher, L. (2003 August 4, Updated). Antithyroglobulin Antibody. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003557.htm.

Christopher, L. (2003 August 2, Updated). Antithyroid microsomal antibody. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003556.htm.

Rennert, N. (2004 April 19, Updated). Chronic thyroiditis (Hashimoto's disease). MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000371.htm.

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Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. (2003 June 04). Thyroid Tests for the Clinical Biochemist and Physician, Thyroid Autoantibodies (TPOAb, TgAb and TRAb). Medscape from Thyroid 13(1):45-56, 2003 [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/452668?src=search through http://www.medscape.com.

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Ogunyemi, D. and Nguyen, P. (2008 March 17). Autoimmune Thyroid Disease and Pregnancy. eMedicine [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.emedicine.com/med/TOPIC3261.HTM through http://www.emedicine.com. Accessed on 11/1/08.

Hershman, J. (2008 June, Revised). Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.merck.com/mmpe/sec12/ch152/ch152d.html?qt=thyroid%20antibodies&alt=sh through http://www.merck.com. Accessed on 11/1/08.

Mayo Clinic Staff (2007 February 1). Hashimoto's disease. MayoClinic [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hashimotos-disease/DS00567 through http://www.mayoclinic.com. Accessed on 11/1/08.

Meikle, A. (2008 September). Thyroid, Autoimmune. ARUP Consult [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.arupconsult.com/Topics/EndocrineDz/ThyroidAutoimmune.html through http://www.arupconsult.com. Accessed on 11/1/08.

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