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A doctor diagnoses mild, or subclinical,
hypothyroidism through a medical history and physical
exam. If your doctor suspects that you have subclinical
hypothyroidism, you will have lab tests to confirm the diagnosis.
Subclinical hypothyroidism is diagnosed when you have:
Some people with subclinical hypothyroidism may test positive
antibodies. These point to
Hashimoto's thyroiditis, which may cause a gradual
loss of thyroid gland function.
Subclinical hypothyroidism should
be watched closely. About 1 out of 10 people who have mild hypothyroidism will go on to have hypothyroidism within 3 years.1
Some studies have shown that older adults with subclinical
hypothyroidism may be more likely to have
heart failure. But more research is needed.
Research does not provide clear evidence to support treatment of
every person who has subclinical hypothyroidism. And many doctors disagree whether
it should be treated. When making the decision to treat subclinical
hypothyroidism, you and your doctor will talk about the benefits
of treatment (reduced symptoms) compared to the cost of medicine and monitoring
symptoms. Some studies have shown that treatment of subclinical hypothyroidism
cholesterol levels. But more research is
Hueston WJ (2011). Hypothyroidism. In ET Bope et al., eds., Conn's Current Therapy 2011, pp.
678–680. Philadelphia: Saunders.
Current as of:
August 7, 2012
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
& Matthew I. Kim, MD - Endocrinology
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