High Thyroid Hormones Linked to Cognitive Disorders

According to GoodRx, thyroid hormone is among the most common prescriptions in the United States. A previous Johns Hopkins Medicine study found that up to 20% of people prescribed thyroid hormone may be overtreated, placing them at risk for exogenous thyrotoxicosis.

“Our goal was to investigate whether aggressive treatment practices, which can cause exogenous thyrotoxicosis, can also possibly cause cognitive harm,” says Adams. “Understanding the negative effects of overtreatment is critical to help guide clinicians in how they prescribe thyroid hormone therapy.”


The research team selected participants for the study from a Johns Hopkins Medicine electronic health record database. The team identified 65,931 qualified participants age 65 and older who received primary care within the Johns Hopkins Health System between Jan. 1, 2014, and May 6, 2023. The average age during the first recorded primary care visit was 71, and all patients had at least two visits that were 30 or more days apart.

Thyrotoxicosis Correlation with Cognitive Disorders

Of patients who experienced thyrotoxicosis, 11% were diagnosed with a cognitive disorder by age 75 versus 6.4% of patients who did not experience thyrotoxicosis. By age 85, 34% of patients who had thyrotoxicosis were diagnosed with a cognitive disorder, compared with 26% of patients who did not have thyrotoxicosis. The excess risk associated with thyrotoxicosis persisted with an analysis using statistical models that examined possible sources of bias and alternative reasons for the associations.

The study also found that among those prescribed thyroid hormone, the level of exposure to thyroid hormone correlated with the degree of risk for a cognitive disorder. Patients with a more severe degree of excess thyroid hormone had a 65% increased risk of cognitive disorder, while those with a more moderate degree of excess thyroid hormone had a 23% increased risk.

“Our results suggest that an increased risk of cognitive disorders is among the potential negative consequences of thyroid hormone excess, a common consequence of thyroid hormone therapy,” says Jennifer Mammen, M.D., Ph.D., the study’s senior author and assistant professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “Clinicians considering thyroid hormone therapy in older adults should avoid overtreatment by using age-appropriate treatment strategies.”

Source: Eurekalert

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