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Causes and laboratory investigation of hypothyroidism 

Causes and laboratory investigation of hypothyroidism
Chapter:
Causes and laboratory investigation of hypothyroidism
Author(s):

Ferruccio Santini

and Aldo Pinchera

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780199235292.003.3243
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date: 12 December 2017

Hypothyroidism is the clinical state that develops as a result of the lack of action of thyroid hormones on target tissues (1). Hypothyroidism is usually due to impaired hormone secretion by the thyroid, resulting in reduced concentrations of serum thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). The term primary hypothyroidism is applied to define the thyroid failure deriving from inherited or acquired causes that act directly on the thyroid gland by reducing the amount of functioning thyroid tissue or by inhibiting thyroid hormone production. The term central hypothyroidism is used when pituitary or hypothalamic abnormalities result in an insufficient stimulation of an otherwise normal thyroid gland. Both primary and central hypothyroidism may be transient, depending on the nature and the extent of the causal agent. Hypothyroidism following a minor loss of thyroid tissue can be recovered by compensatory hyperplasia of the residual gland. Similarly, hypothyroidism subsides when an exogenous inhibitor of thyroid function is removed.

Peripheral hypothyroidism may also arise as a consequence of tissue resistance to thyroid hormones due to a mutation in the thyroid hormone receptor. Resistance to thyroid hormones is a heterogeneous clinical entity with most patients appearing to be clinically euthyroid while some of them have symptoms of thyrotoxicosis and others display selected signs of hypothyroidism. The common feature is represented by pituitary resistance to thyroid hormones, leading to increased secretion of thyrotropin that in turn stimulates thyroid growth and function. The variability in clinical manifestations depends on the severity of the hormonal resistance, the relative degree of tissue hyposensitivity, and the coexistence of associated genetic defects (see Chapter 3.4.8).

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