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Avoid routine thyroid tests

I know a middle-aged nameless someone who told their doctor that they had gained a few pounds over a few years.

So, as is pretty routine these days, they were promptly tested for their thyroid hormone level, even though they had absolutely no symptoms of low thyroid hormone levels, that is, no coldness, no sluggishness, no nothing to indicate an underactive thyroid.

But as is also pretty routine when so many people get tested, their thyroid hormone level came back “low”, so they were put on thyroid hormone, a therapy that will apply for the rest of their lives.

The argument for doing that is that low thyroid levels have been linked to slightly higher risks of heart disease so since there seem to be no adverse effects from taking daily doses of thyroid hormone (aside from the bother and the cost, of course), why not play safe and get the thyroid hormone level tested in everyone and if it’s “low”, then try to get it back to what is deemed “normal”?

That’s one side of this argument.

The other side is that it’s never been established whether or not in asymptomatic people it makes any difference to re-establish “normal” thyroid hormone levels, that is, no study has indicated a better life or a longer life for people who have no symptoms but simply have a “low” thyroid hormone level, so don’t get your thyroid hormone level tested unless you have pretty specific reasons to do it.

And that’s the side that the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care (boy, do they need a more catchy name) has come down on so that n a recent issue of the CMAJ, the task force came out strongly against routine thyroid testing.

So, as always, it’s really up to you as to what you choose to do.

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