Autoimmune thyroid disease is common but can be confusing. A big component of the diagnosis is the blood test for TPO antibodies. TPO stands for Thyroid Peroxidase and it is vitally important for the production of thyroid hormone (which impacts almost every system in our body…so yeah, it’s important). Those with an antibody for TPO can then develop problems producing thyroid hormone and a slew of problems can follow.
But, like most antibodies, the meaning of a +TPO antibody blood test doesn’t always mean what we think it means. Most with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and Grave’s Disease (both are autoimmune thyroid disease) will have a +TPO antibody but that doesn’t mean EVERYONE with a +TPO antibody has a disease, feels sick or needs medication.
Autoimmune thyroid disease is taken care of best by my endocrinology colleagues. So how does a rheumatologist come across these blood tests? Well, it’s very common for patients with a +TPO antibody to also have other positive antibody tests, most notably the Anti-Nuclear Antibody or ANA (learn more about ANA here).
How Rheumatology can help
Given that we know one autoimmune condition puts one at risk for another, the presence of an ANA, even if not surprising, should be evaluated fully by a rheumatologist. Positive antibodies can travel together but so can autoimmune conditions. The only way to tease it all out is by a full rheumatologic evaluation and then, together, the endocrinologist and rheumatologist can move forward with an appropriate treatment plan.
As I always advise with antibody tests, there are no slam dunk blood tests. Everything must be taken in context of the individual. Sometimes they are important clues towards making a diagnosis, other times they are simply a reminder to take care of ourselves.
Learn more about it and my thoughts on antibody tests in the video above!
In good health,