Women with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis suffer from a high symptom load that negatively affects their quality of life, even when thyroid function is normal, suggests a new study.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, also known as chronic autoimmune thyroiditis, is the most common cause of hypothyroidism, and most often affects middle-aged women. Symptoms include chronic fatigue, difficulty concentrating, chronic irritability, chronic nervousness, constipation, and dry hair.
The presence of antithyroperoxidase (anti-TPO) antibodies is characteristic of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Investigators hypothesized that higher levels of anti-TPO antibodies would be associated with an increased symptom load and a decreased quality of life in female patients with normal thyroid function. The prospective cohort study involved 426 euthyroid women undergoing thyroid surgery for benign thyroid disease (mean age 54.5 years).
Histologic examination identified Hashimoto’s thyroiditis in 6.6% of the patients. Having calculated an anti-TPO cutoff point of 121.01 U/mL for the study, the researchers found the mean number of reported symptoms to be significantly higher in the women with anti-TPO levels >121.0 IU/mL than in women with lower levels (6.7 vs. 4.1). Chronic fatigue, dry hair, chronic irritability, chronic nervousness, a history of breast cancer and of early miscarriage, and lower quality-of-life levels were significantly associated with anti-TPO levels exceeding 121.0 IU/mL. There was no difference in preoperative thyroid-stimulating hormone levels between the two groups. Approximately 30% of the women in each group were in need of thyroid hormone supplementation.
“Women with [Hashimoto’s thyroiditis] suffer from a high symptom load,” wrote the researchers (Thyroid. 2011;21:161-167). “Hypothyroidism is only a contributing factor to the development of associated conditions.” Further research is recommended to improve or develop treatment strategies.