Testing and treatment for underactive thyroid is increasing in Australia. Why?

Press/Media: Expert Comment


The chair of the RACGP expert committee for quality care, Dr Mark Morgan, says in addition to detecting some hypothyroidism early, “some of the increase might be happening because we have very sensitive tests for thyroid function and minor temporary upsets lead to lifelong treatments with low-dose thyroid supplements”...

However, experts speaking to Guardian Australia say that any overtreatment for subclinical conditions may have financial or health implications.

“The harms associated with treatment with thyroxine for subclinical hypothyroidism include increasing the risk of atrial fibrillation – a condition where the heart beats erratically and can cause a stroke,” Morgan, says. “Other risks include osteoporosis – reducing the strength of your bones, and fractures.”

However, both atrial fibrillation and osteoporosis are common conditions – becoming more common as people age – and it’s unknown how much the treatment of subclinical hypothyroidism contributes to the numbers, he says. “There are also costs involved in taking and monitoring lifelong medication, so these medications should only be used when there is clear evidence of benefit over harms.”


subclinical hypothyroidism

First Do No Harm - A guide to choosing wisely in general practice.

Period18 May 2024

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