Clin Exp Med. 2004 Apr;3(4):199-210
Monzani F, Caraccio N, Dardano A, Ferrannini E.
Department of Internal Medicine, University of Pisa, Via Roma 67, I-56126 Pisa, Italy
Type I interferons are currently used for the treatment of chronic viral hepatitis, multiple sclerosis and several hematological and solid tumors.
Side effects are not uncommon, and include multiple alterations in thyroid function, some of which are unrelated to autoimmunity.
Review of the literature revealed an overall mean prevalence of incident thyroid dysfunction of 6.2%, hypothyroidism occurring more frequently (3.9%) than hyperthyroidism (2.3%).
Destructive thyroiditis characterized by early transient thyrotoxicosis followed by hypothyroidism has also been described.
Thyroid dysfunction was mainly subclinical, and spontaneous resolution occurred in almost 60% of patients with or without withdrawal of interferon.
Risk factors for developing thyroid abnormalities were female sex and the presence of pre-existing autoimmune thyroiditis.
Whether prolonged interferon therapy will increase the likelihood of experiencing thyroid dysfunction, as well as the relationship between incident thyroid autoimmunity and the efficacy of interferon therapy, are still open questions.
Although the most-likely explanation for thyroid disease occurring with type I interferon therapy remains an autoimmune reaction or immune system dysregulation, a direct inhibitory effect on thyrocytes may be presumed in patients who developed hypothyroidism without autoimmunity.
However, the mechanisms of thyroid damage induced by type I interferons have not yet been clarified in detail.
We recommend routine evaluation of serum thyroid-stimulating hormone during interferon therapy.
A systematic thyroid assessment is useful only for those patients with pre-existing thyroiditis or incident dysfunction.
Although discontinuation of interferon therapy is seldom required, it may be necessary in patients who develop Graves' disease and overt hyperthyroidism.