OBJECTIVES To evaluate neuromuscular signs and symptoms in patients with newly diagnosed hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
METHODS A prospective cohort study was performed in adult patients with newly diagnosed thyroid dysfunction. Patients were evaluated clinically with hand held dynamometry and with electrodiagnosis. The clinical features of weakness and sensory signs and the biochemical data were evaluated during treatment.
RESULTS In hypothyroid patients 79% had neuromuscular complaints, 38% had clinical weakness (manual muscle strength testing) in one or more muscle groups, 42% had signs of sensorimotor axonal neuropathy, and 29% had carpal tunnel syndrome. Serum creatine kinase did not correlate with weakness. After 1 year of treatment 13% of the patients still had weakness. In hyperthyroid patients 67% had neuromuscular symptoms, 62% had clinical weakness in at least one muscle group that correlated with FT4 concentrations, but not with serum CK. Nineteen per cent of the patients had sensory-motor axonal neuropathy and 0% had carpal tunnel syndrome. The neuromuscular signs developed rapidly, early in the course of the disorder and were severe, but resolved rapidly and completely during treatment (average time 3.6 months).
CONCLUSIONS Neuromuscular symptoms and signs were present in most patients. About 40% of the hypothyroid patients and 20% of the hyperthyroid patients had predominantly sensory signs of a sensorimotor axonal neuropathy early in the course of thyroid disease. Weakness in hyperthyroidism evolved rapidly at an early stage of the disorder and resolved completely during treatment, suggesting a functional muscle disorder. Hand held dynamometry is sensitive for the detection of weakness and for the clinical evaluation of treatment effects. Weakness in hypothyroidism is more difficult to treat, suggesting myopathy.
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