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Subclinical hypothyroidism: an update for primary care physicians

Vahab Fatourechi
Mayo Clinic Proceedings 2009, 84 (1): 65-71
19121255
Subclinical hypothyroidism (SCH), also called mild thyroid failure, is diagnosed when peripheral thyroid hormone levels are within normal reference laboratory range but serum thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels are mildly elevated. This condition occurs in 3% to 8% of the general population. It is more common in women than men, and its prevalence increases with age. Of patients with SCH, 80% have a serum TSH of less than 10 mIU/L. The most important implication of SCH is high likelihood of progression to clinical hypothyroidism. The possibility that it is a cardiovascular risk factor has been a subject of debate. Large-scale randomized studies are needed for evidence-based recommendations regarding screening for mild thyroid failure and levothyroxine therapy for this condition. Currently, the practical approach is routine levothyroxine therapy for persons with a persistent serum TSH of more than 10.0 mIU/L and individualized therapy for those with a TSH of less than 10.0 mIU/L.

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