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Mia Holley

Host university University of Sunderland

PhD research project: Consequences of Over-Diagnosing Hypothyroidism in an Ageing United Kingdom population (CODHA UK): a national primary care database study

Project summary: Hypothyroidism is the presence of an under-active thyroid gland, whereby the thyroid does not produce enough hormones. 1 in 20 people are diagnosed with subclinical hypothyroidism in the United Kingdom. Symptoms of subclinical hypothyroidism include tiredness, weight gain and muscle cramps.

Subclinical hypothyroidism refers to when the thyroid-stimulating hormone level is high, while levels of thyroxine hormone remain in range. Studies have shown that thyroid-stimulating hormone levels increase with age, however, the diagnosis of subclinical hypothyroidism is made irrespective of age.

Research has found that higher thyroid stimulating hormone levels can be beneficial to elderly patients, including reduced death rates. Levothyroxine is prescribed to patients with subclinical hypothyroidism. Levothyroxine can have side effects including headaches, muscle cramps and diarrhoea. There is no conclusive evidence about whether levothyroxine is beneficial or detrimental to elderly patients. This research proposes that elderly patients are being over-diagnosed with subclinical hypothyroidism, hence over-prescribed with levothyroxine.

This study aims to compare the cardiovascular and bone health outcomes of elderly subclinical hypothyroid patients who received levothyroxine with those who did not.

Research interests: Medical statistics, epidemiology

Expected PhD completion date: September 2024

Contact: [email protected]