Physical examination for hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism can affect many body systems. During a physical examination to find out whether you have the condition, a health professional may:

  • Weigh you, take your blood pressure, check your heart rate, and listen to your heart and lungs.
  • Examine your skin, nails, and hair. People with hypothyroidism may develop cool, dry skin and hair loss.
  • Examine your face, legs, arms, hands, and feet for swelling.
  • Check to see whether your nerves are functioning normally. This is usually done by tapping your elbow or knee with a small rubber hammer. People with severe hypothyroidism often have slow reactions (reflexes) when this is done.
  • Examine your thyroid gland to look for subtle changes in the way it feels and see whether it is enlarged. These changes may help your health professional determine the cause of the enlargement. A normal thyroid gland does not rule out the presence of hypothyroidism.
  • Check your vision and eye movements.

The health professional may also check women who are not breast-feeding for the presence of breast milk. In some women, hypothyroidism can cause the breasts to release milk.

Last Updated: August 25, 2008

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