Subclinical hypothyroidism refers to a state in which people do not have symptoms of hypothyroidism and have a normal amount of thyroid hormone in their blood. The only abnormality is an increased TSH on the person’s blood work. This implies that the pituitary gland is working extra hard to maintain a normal circulating thyroid hormone level and that the thyroid gland requires extra stimulation by the pituitary to produce adequate hormones. Most people with subclinical hypothyroidism can expect the disease to progress to obvious hypothyroidism, in which symptoms and signs occur.
"Secondary" or "tertiary" hypothyroidism occurs when the decrease in thyroid hormone is due to a defect of the pituitary gland or hypothalamus. A special test, known as the TRH test, can help distinguish if the disease is caused by a defect in the pituitary or the hypothalamus. This test requires an injection of the TRH hormone and is performed by a doctor that treats thyroid conditions (endocrinologist or hormone specialist).
The association between hypothyroidism and energy expenditure was suspected clinically, and the discovery of lower O2 consumption in myxedema provided an early diagnostic tool (19). The development of a device to assess energy expenditure through measurement of the basal metabolic rate (BMR) in humans proved to be useful for not only diagnosis but also titration of therapy (20). The scale was calibrated so that a normal BMR reference range would be around 0%, whereas athyreotic individuals could have a BMR of about −40% (21). Because of lack of specificity (for example, low BMR in malnutrition), BMR was used in conjunction with the overall clinical impression; a low BMR in the setting of high clinical suspicion would secure a diagnosis and justify treatment (21, 22).
Megan Casper, RDN, a dietitian based in New York City and the founder of Nourished Bite, points out that iodine deficiency is the leading cause of hypothyroidism worldwide. This mineral can’t be made by the body, so dietary sources like iodized salt, dairy products, seafood, seaweed, and fortified cereals are important. “Iodine is an essential nutrient in the body, and thyroid hormones are composed of iodine,” explains Rizzo. “Those lacking thyroid hormones may also be lacking iodine.”
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