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Thyroid nodules

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Endocrine System


Major Revision of Hypothyroid Diagnosis Guidelines

Although thyroid disease is easy to diagnose and treat, half of the cases in America remain undiagnosed. Minor thyroid abnormalities may go unnoticed, but data suggests that many people with low-level thyroid problems could improve with treatment.

In an effort to improve diagnosis of thyroid disease, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) has released new guidelines that narrow the range for acceptable thyroid function.

Doctors typically base diagnosis of thyroid disease on the "normal" range for the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) test. While the previous normal range was between 0.5 and 5.0, the new guidelines narrow the range for acceptable thyroid function to between 0.3 and 3.04.

Under the new guidelines, as many as 27 million people may have abnormal thyroid function--more than double the number of people thought to have abnormal thyroid function under the old guidelines. These estimates would make thyroid disease more common in North America than diabetes.

Women are at an increased risk for thyroid disease, as they are five to eight times more likely than men to be diagnosed. The elderly are also at an increased risk--by the age of 60 years, as many as 17 percent of women and nine percent of men have an underactive thyroid. Thyroid disease is also linked to other autoimmune diseases, including certain types of diabetes, arthritis and anemia.

The thyroid gland produces hormones that influence essentially every organ, tissue and cell in the body. Thyroid disease, if left untreated, can lead to elevated cholesterol levels and heart disease, infertility, muscle weakness, osteoporosis and, in extreme cases, coma or death.

Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) affects some 80 percent of patients with thyroid disease. Symptoms of hypothyroidism include fatigue, forgetfulness, depression, constipation, and changes in weight and appetite.

Experts hope that the new guidelines will give physicians the information they need to diagnose mild thyroid disease before it leads to serious health consequences such as elevated cholesterol, heart disease, osteoporosis, infertility and depression.

About.com February 20, 2003

American Association of Clinical Endocrinologist January, 2003


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