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.
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.