Thyroid peroxidase (TPO) is an enzyme of the thyroid gland that assists in the production of thyroid hormone. Levels of thyroid antibodies refers to the number of antibodies in the blood that are blocking the ability of this enzyme to properly work.
Abnormally high levels of these antibodies occur when the immune system mistakenly senses that the thyroid gland is suffering from a disease. This results in a battle between the antibodies and the tissue perceived as foreign, and this results in inflammation.
This attack against healthy tissue inflames the gland and eventually may lead to hypothyroidism, a condition where the gland secretes inadequate amounts of thyroid hormone.
The two most common autoimmune disorders of this type are Hashimoto's disease or Grave's disease. Thyroid antibody testing is primarily ordered to help diagnose an autoimmune thyroid disease and to separate it from other forms of thyroiditis.
While Hashimoto's disease results in low levels of thyroid hormone being released, Grave's disease acts in the opposite manner, culminating in hyperthyroiditis, a production of too much hormone.
Signs that an individual may be suffering from extreme numbers of antibodies include constipation, difficulty concentrating, dry skin, neck swelling, fatigue, hair loss, heavy or irregular menstrual cycles, chills, weight gain, a swollen face or stiffness in the joints.
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