Nonthyroidal illness syndrome : Current Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes and Obesity

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THYROID: Edited by Lewis E. Braverman and Angela M. Leung

Nonthyroidal illness syndrome

Farwell, Alan P.

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Current Opinion in Endocrinology & Diabetes and Obesity 20(5):p 478-484, October 2013. | DOI: 10.1097/


Purpose of review 

The current state of the pathophysiology, diagnosis, and therapeutic implications of the nonthyroidal illness syndrome is reviewed.

Recent findings 

Previous studies attributed the development of the nonthyroidal illness syndrome to alterations in three main areas of thyroid hormone metabolism: deiodinase activity, thyroid-stimulating hormone secretion, and hormone binding to serum proteins. New studies suggest that alterations in thyroid hormone transport into tissues and alterations of the nuclear thyroid hormone receptors may also play a role. Therapy of the nonthyroidal illness syndrome remains a controversial topic.


Multiple factors lead to the development of the nonthyroidal illness syndrome, including alterations in type 1 and 3 deiodinase activity, thyrotropin-releasing hormone and thyroid-stimulating hormone secretion, hormone binding to plasma proteins, thyroid hormone transporter expression and activity, and the thyroid hormone nuclear receptor complex. These data show that acute and chronic illness affect all aspects of thyroid hormone metabolism and action. Some of these changes are physiologic and some are pharmacologic. The mediators of these alterations are still largely unclear. There continues to be no indication for thyroid hormone therapy in the vast majority of patients with the nonthyroidal illness syndrome, although interesting data suggest a possible role for treating a small subset of patients.

Copyright © 2013 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.

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