The background of the study. There are both genetic and environmental risk factors for autoimmune thyroid disease. In this study, risk factors for autoimmune thyroid disease and thyroid function were assessed in women who had a relative known to have autoimmune thyroid disease.
How the study was done. The study subjects were 803 healthy women who had a first- or second-degree relative with autoimmune thyroid disease, either Graves' disease or Hashimoto's thyroiditis. The women underwent a brief physical examination and had serum measurements of thyroid function and thyroid antibodies.
The results of the study. Among the 803 women, 89 percent had one first-degree relative or more with autoimmune thyroid disease, and 11 percent had one second-degree relative or more with the disease. Four percent of the 803 women had hypothyroidism, and 2 percent had hyperthyroidism. Serum antithyroid peroxidase antibody concentrations were high in 26 percent, but only 8 percent had high serum antithyroglobulin antibody concentrations.
The conclusions of the study. Among healthy women with relatives who have autoimmune thyroid disease, a substantial fraction have high serum antithyroid antibody concentrations, but few have thyroid dysfunction.
The original article. Strieder TG, Prummel MF, Tijssen JG, Endert E, Wiersinga WM. Risk factors for and prevalence of thyroid disorders in a cross-sectional study among healthy female relatives of patients with autoimmune thyroid disease. Clin Endocrinol 2003;59:396-401.