The term subclinical thyroid disease is used to describe asymptomatic thyroid abnormalities found on imaging studies or laboratory tests. Thyroid nodules not palpable on physical examination but detected on imaging studies performed for other purposes are called incidentalomas. In the absence of risk factors for thyroid cancer, nodules that are less than 1 cm in diameter do not require biopsy. Subclinical hyperthyroidism is defined as suppressed serum sensitive thyrotropin (TSH) and normal serum thyroxine and triiodothyronine levels. This condition may adversely affect the heart and the bones and should be treated, especially in patients older than 60 years. Subclinical hypothyroidism, defined as mildly elevated serum TSH and normal serum thyroxine levels, is the most common thyroid dysfunction. In patients with subclinical hypothyroidism, thyroxine therapy should be given if the serum TSH level is higher than 10 mIU/L. For TSH values between 5 and 10 mIU/L, the decision for therapy should be individualized and depends on the level of TSH, presence of antithyroid antibodies, and clinical factors.
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