No Thyroid Symptoms? No Thyroid Screening

Routine thyroid dysfunction screening may not help patients without symptoms

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Unless you’re pregnant or experiencing symptoms, thyroid screening is one medical test that's probably OK to skip.

In a new statement, the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) said routine thyroid screenings may be unnecessary for people who have no symptoms of thyroid problems.

Michael L. LeFevre, MD, MSPH, who led the USPSTF study, reviewed evidence on the pros and cons of screening for thyroid disorders among people who do not show signs of thyroid issues.

“The USPSTF concludes that the current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of screening for thyroid dysfunction in nonpregnant, asymptomatic adults,” Dr. LeFevre concluded.

The thyroid is a small gland in the brain that controls how the body uses energy. If the thyroid is over- or under-active, it may cause fatigue, heart problems, or weight gain or loss.

To make this recommendation on thyroid screenings, the Task Force reviewed past trials and studies to see what benefits and harms screening may cause.

To screen for thyroid problems, doctors take a patient’s blood and look for thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).

The Task Force noted that these tests can be inaccurate. Also, abnormal TSH levels can be caused by several factors, such as medication or illness. High or low levels of TSH may level out over time without treatment, Dr. LeFevre and team noted.

There is not evidence that these screenings provide “clinically important benefits” to patients without symptoms, these researchers wrote.

Also, screenings can increase the risk of false positives and overtreatment. If a patient without thyroid dysfunction receives treatment, his or her health might be put at risk, Dr. LeFevre and team said.

The Task Force concluded that people who do not have symptoms and are not pregnant should not seek routine thyroid testing.

This recommendation was published March 23 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The USPSTF funded this research. Dr. LeFevre and team disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
March 20, 2015
Last Updated:
March 24, 2015