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The Shocking Way COVID-19 Attacks Your Thyroid

New research has found a link between serious coronavirus infections and the thyroid.
One of the things about COVID-19 that scares doctors the most is that it attacks and damages many vital organs, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, and liver. This week, researchers have added another to the list—the thyroid.

According to new research published in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology, rates of thyrotoxicosis are significantly higher among patients with serious cases of COVID-19 than among patients who are critically ill but are not battling the highly infectious virus. This could mean that there may be an atypical form of thyroiditis related to coronavirus infection. And that could disrupt your metabolism, body temperature, growth and development, which the gland's hormones influence.

Related: Things You Should Never Do During the Coronavirus Pandemic

They Suggest 'Routine Assessment'

"We suggest routine assessment of thyroid function in patients with COVID-19 requiring high-intensity care because they frequently present with thyrotoxicosis due to a form of subacute thyroiditis related to SARS-CoV-2," the authors write in the study. 

Researchers do point out that thyroid disorders are not considered to increase an individual's risk of developing COVID-19, writing, "such conditions are not a risk factor for SARS-CoV-2 infection or severity of COVID-19." 

"It is important to highlight that we did not find an increased prevalence of preexisting thyroid disorders in COVID-19 patients (contrary to early media reports)," first author Ilaria Muller, MD, PhD, of the Department of Endocrinology, IRCCS Fondazione Ca' Granda Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico, Milan, Italy, explained to Medscape Medical News. said. "So far, clinical observations do not support this fear, and we need to reassure people with thyroid disorders, since such disorders are very common among the general population," she said.

COVID-19 May Result in Thyroid-Specific Inflammation

However, it does add to mounting evidence that there is a relationship between the virus and the butterfly shaped gland. "Given the healthcare impacts of the current COVID-19 pandemic worldwide, this study provides some insight on the potential systemic inflammation, as well as thyroid-specific inflammation, of the SARS-Cov-2 virus that is described in some emerging reports," added Angela M. Leung, MD.

"This study joins at least six others that have reported a clinical presentation resembling subacute thyroiditis in critically ill patients with COVID-19."

However, researchers admit it is still unclear whether coronavirus has a long-term effect on the thyroid. 

"We cannot predict what will be the long-lasting thyroid effects after COVID-19," Muller.

"After a few years…5% to 20% of patients develop permanent hypothyroidism, [and] the same might happen in COVID-19 patients," she explained about subacute viral thyroiditis. "We will follow our patients long term to answer this question ― this study is already ongoing."

In the meantime, they hope that their findings will aid with the diagnoses of thyroid dysfunction in patients with COVID-19. Primarily due to the fact that if it goes unnoticed, it could worsen the health condition of the seriously ill patient, Muller points out.  

"The gold-standard treatment for thyroiditis is steroids, so the presence of thyroid dysfunction might represent an additional indication to such treatment in COVID-19 patients, to be verified in properly designed clinical trials," she advised.

As for yourself, do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Mask up, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 37 Places You're Most Likely to Catch Coronavirus.

Leah Groth
Leah Groth has decades of experience covering all things health, wellness and fitness related. Read more about Leah
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