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COVID-19 infection can permanently reduce thyroid function, men more susceptible

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.

A new study says that there is a long-term increased risk of permanently reduced thyroid function, caused by late-onset effects of the COVID-19 viral infection.

Written by Jahnavi Sarma |Updated : March 23, 2021 12:02 PM IST

COVID-19 can affect your endocrine system. This has been proved by researchers. It also affects the thyroid gland, which is a part of the endocrine system. Now, a team of researchers from the University of Milan in Italy has showed that some patients with moderate to severe COVID-19 seem to experience inflammation of the thyroid gland that is different from thyroid inflammation caused by other viruses. The study, presented virtually at ENDO 2021, indicated that one-third of the participants still had signs of thyroid inflammation after three months, even though their thyroid function had normalised. An earlier 2020 study by researchers at the University Hospital Pisa also said that COVID-19 may cause thyroid disease in patients. Oxford's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism had published this study.

COVID-19 can cause atypical thyroid inflammation

In spring 2020, 15 per cent of the COVID-19 patients hospitalised in acute medicine units in Italy had thyroid hormone alterations due to multi-factorial causes, including thyroid inflammation. In comparison, only 1 per cent of hospitalised patients during the same period in 2019 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.

Thyroid triggered by COVID-19 shows distinct symptoms

For the purpose of the study, the researchers wanted to find out whether the thyroiditis associated with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 disease, follows the same pattern as thyroid inflammation caused by other viruses. They started a surveillance programme to monitor the thyroid function of patients every three months after being hospitalised 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. They found 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.

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Earlier study found that COVID-19 can damage endocrine system

A study by Sri Lankan researchers last year found that this disease damages the endocrine system, which is made up of the pituitary gland, thyroid gland, parathyroid glands, adrenal glands, pancreas, ovaries and the testicles. It is actually the collection of glands that produce hormones to regulate your metabolism, tissue function, reproduction, overall development and also your sleep and mood. Any malfunctioning of the endocrine system can lead to serious issues like diabetes and thyroid imbalance. The Journal of the Endocrine Society published this study.

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