New research published in the journal Thyroid has shown that Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease and the most common cause of hypothyroidism — an underactive thyroid — in the U.S., has an effect on quality of life. Specifically, the study found that even when the thyroid levels are “normal,” Hashimoto’s thyroiditis can increase symptoms and reduce the quality of life.
In the study, researchers reported that among women with the same thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels, women who had higher levels of antithyroid antibodies had a substantially higher rate of symptoms.
The article concluded that hypothyroidism is only one factor that contributes to symptoms of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
Charles H. Emerson, MD, Editor-in-Chief of the journal Thyroid, said: “This study raises important clinical issues. Although the authors did not study thyroid hormone treatment for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, it raises the possibility that optimal doses of thyroid hormone will not completely ameliorate all symptoms. Further studies are required to confirm the findings of Ott et al. and to determine if patients with hypothyroidism due to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis still have residual symptoms despite achieving an ideal biochemical response to thyroid hormone replacement therapy.”
Interestingly, it’s been a full 10 years since the March 2001 issue of the sameexact journal, Thyroid, published a German study that found that the use of levothyroxine treatment for cases of Hashimoto’s autoimmune thyroiditiswhere TSH had not yet elevated (“euthyroid”) beyond normal range could reduce the incidence and degree of autoimmune disease progression.
Those researchers concluded that preventative treatment of normal TSH range patients with Hashimoto’s disease reduced the various markers of autoimmune thyroiditis, and speculated that that such treatment might even be able to stop the progression of Hashimoto’s disease, or perhaps even prevent the development of the hypothyroidism.
The bottom line? At some point, we need the medical community to recognize that Hashimoto’s — even when the thyroid levels fall into the so-called “normal” range,” can cause symptoms.