Some Covid-19 patients may experience atypical thyroid inflammation

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on March 21, 2021

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According to a study presented virtually at the Endocrine Society's annual meeting, some Covid-19 patients may experience inflammation of the thyroid gland, different from thyroid inflammation caused by other viruses.

The study revealed that one-third of the study participants still had signs of thyroid inflammation after three months. This happened even though their thyroid function had normalized.

Currently, the team of researchers who carried out the study are following patients to determine whether this inflammation will trigger permanent thyroid dysfunction.

The study stated that last year during spring, 15 per cent of the Covid-19 patients hospitalised in a hospital in Milan, Italy had thyroid hormone alterations due to multi-factorial causes. This included thyroid inflammation.

In comparison, only 1 per cent of hospitalised patients during the same period in 2019 prior to the pandemic had thyroid hormone alterations.

People with thyroiditis or inflammation of the thyroid gland, triggered by other viruses usually recover thyroid function in the short term. However, there is a long-term increased risk of permanently reduced thyroid function, caused by late-onset effects of viral infection, or by the immune system attacking the thyroid gland, said lead researcher Ilaria Muller, MD, PhD, of the University of Milan in Italy.

For the study, Muller started a surveillance program to monitor the thyroid function of patients every three months after being hospitalized for moderate to severe Covid-19 disease.

The patients undergo a routine blood and ultrasound testing to monitor their thyroid function and signs of inflammation.

The findings of the study suggested that the thyroiditis in people with moderate to severe Covid-19 disease differs from typical thyroiditis in several ways.

These include the absence of neck pain, the presence of mild thyroid dysfunction, higher frequency among men, and the association with severe Covid-19 disease.

"After three months, patients' thyroid function has normalised, but signs of inflammation were still present in about one-third of patients," Muller said.

She added, "We are continuing to monitor these patients to see what happens during the following months. It is important to know whether SARS-CoV-2 virus has late-onset negative effects on the thyroid gland, in order to promptly diagnose, and eventually treat, the condition."

The findings of the study were published in the journal of the Endocrine Society.

Published on March 21, 2021

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