Mechanisms related to the pathophysiology and management of central hypothyroidism

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Central hypothyroidism (CH) is defined as hypothyroidism due to insufficient stimulation of the thyroid gland by TSH, for which secretion or activity can be impaired at the hypothalamic or pituitary levels. Patients with CH frequently present with multiple other pituitary hormone deficiencies. In addition to classic CH induced by hypothalamic-pituitary tumors or Sheehan syndrome, novel causes include traumatic brain injury or subarachnoid hemorrhage, bexarotene (a retinoid X receptor agonist) therapy, neonates being born to mothers with insufficiently controlled Graves disease, and lymphocytic hypophysitis. Growth hormone therapy, which may be used in children and adults, is now also recognized as a possible cause of unmasking CH in susceptible individuals. In addition, mutations in genes, such as TRHR, POU1F1, PROP1, HESX1, SOX3, LHX3, LHX4 and TSHB, have been associated with CH. The difficulty in making a clear diagnosis of CH is that the serum TSH levels can vary; values are normal in most cases, but in some might be low or slightly elevated. Levels of endogenous T4 in serum might also be subnormal. Appropriate doses of levothyroxine for T4 replacement therapy have not been confirmed, but might need to be higher than presently used empirically in patients with CH and should be adjusted according to age and other hormone deficiencies, to achieve free T4 concentrations in the upper end of the normal range.

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