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Open access

Ehtasham Ahmad, Kashif Hafeez, Muhammad Fahad Arshad, Jimboy Isuga and Apostolos Vrettos

Summary

Primary hypothyroidism is a common endocrine condition, most commonly caused by autoimmune thyroiditis (Hashimoto’s disease) while Graves’ disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. Hypothyroidism is usually a permanent condition in most patients requiring lifelong levothyroxine treatment. Transformation from Hashimoto’s disease to Graves’ disease is considered rare but recently been increasingly recognised. We describe a case of a 61-year-old lady who was diagnosed with hypothyroidism approximately three decades ago and treated with levothyroxine replacement therapy. Approximately 27 years after the initial diagnosis of hypothyroidism, she started to become biochemically and clinically hyperthyroid. This was initially managed with gradual reduction in the dose of levothyroxine, followed by complete cessation of the medication, but she remained hyperthyroid, ultimately requiring anti-thyroid treatment with Carbimazole. This case highlights that there should be a high index of suspicion for a possible conversion of hypothyroidism to hyperthyroidism, even many years after the initial diagnosis of hypothyroidism. To our knowledge, this case illustrates the longest reported time interval between the diagnosis of hypothyroidism until the conversion to hyperthyroidism.

Learning points:

  • Occurrence of Graves’ disease after primary hypothyroidism is uncommon but possible.

  • In this case, there was a time-lapse of almost 28 years and therefore this entity may not be as rare as previously thought.

  • Diagnosis requires careful clinical and biochemical assessment. Otherwise, the case can be easily confused for over-replacement of levothyroxine.

  • We suggest measuring both anti-thyroid peroxidase (TPO) antibodies and TSH receptor antibodies (TRAB) in suspected cases.

  • The underlying aetiology for the conversion is not exactly known but probably involves autoimmune switch by an external stimulus in genetically susceptible individuals.

Open access

Luísa Correia Martins, Ana Rita Coutinho, Mónica Jerónimo, Joana Serra Caetano, Rita Cardoso, Isabel Dinis and Alice Mirante

Summary

Alternating between hyper- and hypo-thyroidism may be explained by the simultaneous presence of both types of TSH receptor autoantibodies (TRAbs) – thyroid stimulating autoantibodies (TSAbs) and TSH blocking autoantibodies (TBAbs). It is a very rare condition, particulary in the pediatric age. The clinical state of these patients is determined by the balance between TSAbs and TBAbs and can change over time. Many mechanisms may be involved in fluctuating thyroid function: hormonal supplementation, antithyroid drugs and levels of TSAbs and TBAbs. Frequent dose adjustments are needed in order to achieve euthyroidism. A definitive therapy may be necessary to avoid switches in thyroid function and frequent need of therapeutic changes. We describe an immune-mediated case of oscillating thyroid function in a 13-year-old adolescent. After a short period of levothyroxine treatment, the patient switched to a hyperthyroid state that was only controlled by adding an antithyroid drug.

Learning points

  • Autoimmune alternating hypo- and hyper-thyroidism is a highly uncommon condition in the pediatric age.

  • It may be due to the simultaneous presence of both TSAbs and TBAbs, whose activity may be estimated in vitro through bioassays.

  • The clinical state of these patients is determined by the balance between TSAbs and TBAbs and can change over time.

  • The management of this condition is challenging, and three therapeutic options could be considered: I-131 ablation, thyroidectomy or pharmacological treatment (single or double therapy).

  • Therapeutic decisions should be taken according to clinical manifestations and thyroid function tests, independent of the bioassays results.

  • A definitive treatment might be considered due to the frequent switches in thyroid function and the need for close monitoring of pharmacological treatment. A definitive treatment might be considered due to the frequent switches in thyroid function and the need for close monitoring of pharmacological treatment.