For those with the early signs of underactive thyroid, taking a common type of medication doesn’t help to treat symptoms or improve quality of life compared with a placebo, according to a new study.
Routine treatment of subclinical hypothyroidism – which affects about 13 million people in the US — typically includes thyroid hormone medications. The most commonly prescribed one is Synthroid (levothyroxine).
Researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 21 clinical trials that enrolled 2,200 people with subclinical hypothyroidism. In those trials, participants received either a thyroid hormone drug (levothyroxine in most of the trials), a placebo or no treatment at all. Hormone treatment was not associated with a benefit in terms of improved quality of life or a reduction in hypothyroid symptoms – such as fatigue and weight gain – researchers reported in JAMA.
Further analysis found that thyroid hormone drugs also did not lead to improvement in terms of depressive symptoms, cognitive functions, muscle strength and blood pressure.
The study authors also note that “thyroid hormone therapy is associated with adverse effects when overtreatment occurs.” Some of those adverse effects can include fast heart rate, excessive sweating and weight loss. They also note that the results don’t support routine use of thyroid hormone therapy for subclinical hypothyroidism.