Subclinical thyroid disease (SCTD) is defined as serum free T4 and free T3 levels within their respective reference ranges in the presence of abnormal serum TSH levels. SCTD is being diagnosed more frequently in clinical practice in young and middle-aged people as well as in the elderly. However, the clinical significance of subclinical thyroid dysfunction is much debated. Subclinical hyper- and hypothyroidism can have repercussions on the cardiovascular system and bone, as well as on other organs and systems. However, the treatment and management of SCTD and population screening are controversial despite the potential risk of progression to overt disease, and there is no consensus on the thyroid hormone and thyrotropin cutoff values at which treatment should be contemplated. Opinions differ regarding tissue effects, symptoms, signs, and cardiovascular risk. Here, we critically review the data on the prevalence and progression of SCTD, its tissue effects, and its prognostic implications. We also examine the mechanisms underlying tissue alterations in SCTD and the effects of replacement therapy on progression and tissue parameters. Lastly, we address the issue of the need to treat slight thyroid hormone deficiency or excess in relation to the patient's age.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism