Although the implementation of sensitive TSH assays resulted in dose reduction, it also fueled the discovery of subclinical states of hypothyroidism (i.e., serum TSH <10 mIU/L and normal serum free T4); this state is 20 times more prevalent than overt hypothyroidism (64). Hence, many patients with vague symptoms, such as depressed mood and fatigue, are commonly screened and found to have subclinical hypothyroidism. In many cases, this finding prompts the conclusion that the subclinical hypothyroidism is the cause of the nonspecific symptoms, and thyroid hormone therapy is initiated. The patients in whom the cause–effect relationship was incorrect contribute to the increasing number of euthyroid but symptomatic patients (57). The marked increase in prescribing of thyroid hormone with decreasing TSH thresholds amplifies this problem (47).

For starters, consider the effect that hypothyroidism can have on weight. Hypothyroidism (also called low thyroid or underactive thyroid) is marked by insufficient hormone production in the thyroid — the butterfly-shaped gland located at the bottom-front of your neck. This gland affects the body’s metabolic processes, and often, sudden weight gain is an early sign of low thyroid.

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