COVID-19 linked to unusual long-term thyroid inflammation

The virus behind COVID-19 may cause long-term thyroid inflammation in some patients, according to a new study recently presented by the Endocrine Society. It's not unusual for a virus to trigger thyroid inflammation, which is called thyroiditis, but the issue typically clears up quickly. That's not the case with similar inflammation observed in some COVID-19 patients, the new study reveals.

Last spring, the study reveals, around 15-percent of the COVID-19 patients admitted to Fondazione IRCCS Ca' Granda Policlinico Hospital in Italy were found to have thyroid hormone 'alterations.' These hormone changes were linked to thyroid inflammation, among other things, and the number of patients experiencing them was considerably higher than the number from the same quarter in 2019.

The study found that a third of participants still showed evidence of thyroid inflammation three months after their illness, though thyroid function had returned to normal. The thyroiditis presented in patients who had moderate and severe COVID-19 infections, and it also presented differently than other virus-linked thyroid inflammation.

The researchers found that thyroid inflammation in these COVID-19 patients included 'mild thyroid dysfunction,' a lack of neck pain, and a greater frequency in men. The study is following the patients to determine whether the COVID-19 thyroid inflammation may lead to permanent thyroid problems for the patients.

The lead researcher behind the study, Ilaria Muller MD, said:

After three months, patients' thyroid function has normalized, but signs of inflammation were still present in about one-third of patients. We are continuing to monitor these patients to see what happens during the following months. It is important to know whether SARS-CoV-2 virus has late-onset negative effects on the thyroid gland, in order to promptly diagnose, and eventually treat, the condition.