Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Summary The characteristic psychic and somatic features found in patients with overt hyper- or hypothyroidism are usually attributed to elevated or diminished levels, respectively, of thyroid hormones. This concept does not sufficiently explain our previous investigations in which the same symptoms, albeit attenuated, were also seen in patients suffering from so-called latent disturbances of thyroid function. This state of disorder, however, exhibits normal concentrations of peripheral thyroid hormones. Only the response of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) to thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) stimulation is in accordance with the behaviour of the overt thyroid dysfunction and enables its differentiation from the euthyroid state. In this context, we investigated the question as to whether pathologic signs in thyroid disorders are correlated to alterations of peripheral thyroid hormones or to changes in the hypothalamus pituitary axis. Therefore, we investigated two groups of ten patients each who suffered from latent hyper- or hypothyroidism, respectively, and ten euthyroid controls. All were matched from sex and age. Endocrine function was estimated by TRH testing, TT3, TT4 and thyroxine binding globuline (TBG). Psychologic testing was performed by questionnaires concerning subjective somatic symptoms, emotional disturbances, psychomotoric performance, cognitive impairment and personality. Patients with latent hyperthyroidism were more subject to somatic symptoms and affective complaints than were those who had latent hypothyroidism. As compared with controls, there were significant differences in exhaustion and pain in the limbs and heart. In terms of affective complaints, patients were more depressive, anxious, touchy and irritable; their personalities showed a higher degree of emotional lability, excitement and irritability. Many symptoms described in overt thyroid dysfunction could be found in latent metabolic disturbances. Therefore, we conclude that the alterations of health in thyroid disorders are more likely to be caused by hypothalamic pituitary impairment than by changes in peripheral hormone levels. The stronger symptoms occurring in overt thyroid dysfunction as compared with latent metabolic disturbances may reflect the degree of hypothalamic pituitary dysfunction.
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