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To Treat or Not to Treat Subclinical Hypothyroidism, What Is the Evidence?

Department of Molecular Medicine and Surgery, Karolinska Institutet, SE-171 76 Stockholm, Sweden
Department of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Diabetes, Karolinska University Hospital, SE-171 76 Stockholm, Sweden
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Medicina 2020, 56(1), 40;
Received: 27 December 2019 / Revised: 13 January 2020 / Accepted: 14 January 2020 / Published: 19 January 2020
Objective: levothyroxine prescriptions have increased remarkably during the last decade, and it is most likely to be prescribed in subclinical hypothyroidism. The aim of this review was to present data on when levothyroxine treatment should be initiated, and the effects of treatment in subclinical hypothyroidism on symptoms such as weight, quality of life, vitality, cognition, and cardiovascular disease. We also discuss evidence for different thyroid-hormone medications. In addition, the option to withhold medication when there is uncertain diagnosis or lack of clinical improvement is discussed. Methods: a literature search in PubMed on the term “treatment of subclinical hypothyroidism” in combination with “quality of life”, “weight”, “cognition”, and “cerebrovascular disease”. Results: current research supports that levothyroxine should be initiated in patients with a thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) >10 mIU/L. Treatment for hypothyroidism is becoming more frequent. Symptoms related to vitality, weight, and quality of life in subclinical disease often persist with levothyroxine treatment, and other causes should be explored. Patients with cardiovascular-risk factors may benefit from treatment, especially younger patients. Caution is necessary when treating elderly subjects with levothyroxine. Conclusion: lifelong treatment with levothyroxine should normally only be considered in manifest hypothyroidism. However, in subclinical hypothyroidism with a TSH >10 mIU/L, therapy is indicated. In milder subclinical forms, a wait-and-see strategy is advocated to see if normalization occurs. Subgroups with cardiovascular risk and subclinical hypothyroidism may benefit from levothyroxine therapy. View Full-Text
Keywords: subclinical hypothyroidism; levothyroxine; overtreatment subclinical hypothyroidism; levothyroxine; overtreatment
MDPI and ACS Style

Calissendorff, J.; Falhammar, H. To Treat or Not to Treat Subclinical Hypothyroidism, What Is the Evidence? Medicina 2020, 56, 40.

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