Subclinical hypothyroidism is a condition diagnosed by a physician after detailed medical history. It includes physical examination and pathological blood tests. In subclinical hypothyroidism there is mild dysfunction of thyroid gland which may present with symptoms or in many cases remain asymptomatic. The blood tests indicate mild rise in TSH hormone with normal T4 level.
Most patients with subclinical hypothyroidism end up with hypothyroidism later on mostly within 3 years. It is more likely when anti-thyroid antibodies are detected along with elevated TSH levels. Experts do not believe every person with subclinical hypothyroidism needs to be treated.However, some school of thought believes patients having persistent rise in TSH level should be considered for treatment.
Causes Of Subclinical Hypothyroidism
The cause of subclinical hypothyroidism is not different than the factors that lead to hypothyroidism. It is prevalent in 3 to 8 percent of population. The incidence is increased with age having preponderance among women. Chronic autoimmune thyroiditis, also known as Hashimoto’s disease is one of the major causes.
Subclinical hypothyroidism may occur when the patient is treated for hyperthyroidism, especially when treatment consists of radioactive iodine. It is also seen in patients after thyroid surgery or with anti-thyroid drugs.Sometimes medications such as amiodarone are also known to elevate TSH level producing subclinical hypothyroidism.
Radiation treatment for head and neck and family history of thyroid disease also trigger subclinical hypothyroidism.
Signs And Symptoms Of Subclinical Hypothyroidism
The symptoms of subclinical hypothyroidism are not as obvious as those of overt hypothyroidism. However, many experts suggest it may exhibit some preliminary symptoms in very mild form that may remain clinically insignificant.
For example dry skin, fatigue and intolerance to cold can be present in patients with subclinical hypothyroidism with elevated TSH and normal T4 level. Such patients often find relief from medications given for hypothyroidism.
Below are given important symptoms of hypothyroidism.
- Weight gain
- Dry skin
- Slow pulse rate
- Hoarseness of voice
- Menstrual irregularities
- Thick and coarse hair
- Difficulty in hearing
- Intolerance to cold air, cold climate, draught of air.
Treatment Of Subclinical Hypothyroidism
A persistent TSH level rise is risk factor for heart disease. Patients suffering from hypothyroidism are known to have high level of triglyceride, LDL and cholesterol. This increases risk of heart disease. Even the same features are present in subclinical hypothyroidism.
Subclinical hypothyroidism needs treatment in case of TSH level remaining high for long period of time. It also needs to be treated when patient is pregnant or is in child bearing age, to prevent pregnancy related complication.
- Levothyroxine is the drug of choice if TSH level remains high for long period. The dose may be very less as compared to that used in full hypothyroidism case. The main aim of treatment with medicine is to maintain TSH level within normal range. To find correct required dose, patient may need to do frequent blood test for TSH.
- Besides the recommended medicines by physician, patient may also take certain home remedies that help to normalize TSH level.
- Patient should increase consuming food that contains Iodine. Iodinated salt, baked fish, sea food are rich source of natural form of iodine.
- Use coconut oil in daily food preparations. This oil characteristically increases metabolic activities in the body.