Taking hormones to treat mild thyroid conditions may not be necessary for many patients, new research has revealed.
According to Australian and international experts, who published their research in The BMJ, thyroid hormones may actually be getting over-prescribed, with studies finding little improvement in patients with mild conditions.
The scientists have advised against using the hormones for mildly under active thyroid gland conditions, with evidence suggesting they do not improve quality of life or symptoms such as low mood and fatigue.
Subclinical hypothyroidism, as it is also known, affects about 5 per cent of the adult population, however it’s more common in the elderly – with 10 to 15 per cent suffering from the condition.
It occurs when the thyroid stimulating hormone levels in the bloodstream are slightly raised, while the thyroid hormone levels remain normal. As a fully functioning thyroid should help to control energy levels and growth, some people may notice symptoms such as fatigue, low mood or weight gain when it’s affected.
To come to their conclusion, a panel of clinicians analysed the latest evidence from a systematic trial comparing the effects of thyroid hormone treatment. From this, they found there were no benefits from treating fatigue, low mood or weight gain in those with mild hypothyroidism.
They claimed while costs and resources were not taken into account beyond direct costs to patients, thyroid hormones cannot be cost effective. However, the scientists advised these recommendations did not apply to women who are trying to fall pregnant, patients with particularly high thyroid stimulating hormone levels or those with severe symptoms.
“Thyroid hormones are powerful drugs and GPs will only ever prescribe them if we think they are of genuine benefit to the person sitting in front of us, particularly as it usually means taking the tablets and being monitored in the long term,” she told the BBC.
“If evidence shows that they are not going to be of benefit to our patients, it is important that we know this and that it is reflected in the clinical guidelines that inform our decision-making.”
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