Concern over inappropriate diagnosis and treatment of thyroid problems

March 27, 2009

More and more people are being inappropriately diagnosed and treated for underactivity of the thyroid gland (known as primary hypothyroidism), warn doctors in an editorial published on bmj.com today.

Hypothyroidism is caused by insufficient production of thyroid hormone by the thyroid gland. It affects about three per cent of the population and is usually treated in . Blood tests are essential in confirming the of hypothyroidism.

But doctors at the British Thyroid Association are concerned that, in recent years, increasing numbers of patients with and without confirmed thyroid disease have been diagnosed and treated inappropriately with thyroid hormones.

"This is potentially an enormous problem, given that in any one year one in four people in the United Kingdom have their thyroid function checked," they warn.

The Royal College of Physicians recently set out clear guidance for the diagnosis and treatment of primary hypothyroidism in the United Kingdom, so why have these problems arisen, ask the authors?

Hypothyroidism is common and is becoming more prevalent because of increased life expectancy and an ageing population, they explain. Thyroid hormones also affect most organs, so hypothyroidism presents with symptoms that can mimic other conditions. This can lead to an incorrect diagnosis which could expose some patients to the harmful effects of excess thyroid hormones, while other serious conditions may go undiagnosed.

Information available on the internet and media interest in alternative modes of diagnosis and treatment of hypothyroidism, have also caused an increase in requests for inappropriate investigations and non-standard treatments, as well as referrals to non-accredited practitioners, they add.

These factors have led to a rise in awareness and confusion about hypothyroidism, and they have increased the workload in primary care.

The authors stress that, in most cases, the management of primary hypothyroidism is straightforward and should be undertaken in primary care.

But they suggest that if wellbeing is not restored despite normal concentrations of thyroid stimulating hormone, it is important to exclude other conditions as the cause of ongoing symptoms. If no obvious cause is found the patient should be referred to an accredited hospital endocrinologist or general physician.

Source: British Medical Journal (news : web)

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Groundbreaking investigative effort identifies gonorrhea vaccine candidates

September 19, 2017
Researchers at Oregon State University have identified a pair of proteins that show promise as the basis for a gonorrhea vaccine.

Snail fever progression linked to nitric oxide production

September 14, 2017
Bilharzia, caused by a parasitic worm found in freshwater called Schistosoma, infects around 200 million people globally and its advance can lead to death, especially in children in developing countries.

Systems analysis points to links between Toxoplasma infection and common brain diseases

September 13, 2017
More than 2 billion people - nearly one out of every three humans on earth, including about 60 million people in the United States - have a lifelong infection with the brain-dwelling parasite Toxoplasma gondii.

Study clears important hurdle toward developing an HIV vaccine

September 13, 2017
An international team of researchers has demonstrated a way of overcoming one of the major stumbling blocks that has prevented the development of a vaccine against HIV: the ability to generate immune cells that stay in circulation ...

As 'flesh-eating' Leishmania come closer, a vaccine against them does, too

September 13, 2017
Parasites that ulcerate the skin, can disfigure the face, and may fatally mutilate its victim's internal organs are creeping closer to the southern edges of the United States.

Promising clinical trial results could give doctors a new tool against drug-resistant strains of malaria parasite

September 13, 2017
Tulane University researchers have developed a new drug that is effective against non-severe cases of malaria, according to results from an FDA-supervised clinical trial published in the latest issue of The Lancet Infectious ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.