Effects of Altering Levothyroxine (L-T4) Doses on Quality of Life, Mood, and Cognition in L-T4 Treated Subjects

Mary H. Samuels, Irina Kolobova, Meike Niederhausen, Jeri S. Janowsky, Kathryn G. Schuff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Background: The brain is a critical target organ for thyroid hormone, but it is unclear whether variations in thyroid function within and near the reference range affect quality of life, mood, or cognition. Methods: A total of 138 subjects with levothyroxine (L-T4)-treated hypothyroidism and normal thyrotropin (TSH) levels underwent measures of quality of life (36-Item Short Form Health Survey, Underactive Thyroid-Dependent Quality of Life Questionnaire), mood (Profile of Mood States, Affective Lability Scale), and cognition (executive function, memory). They were then randomly assigned to receive an unchanged, higher, or lower L-T4 dose in double-blind fashion, targeting one of three TSH ranges (0.34 to 2.50, 2.51 to 5.60, or 5.61 to 12.0 mU/L). Doses were adjusted every 6 weeks based on TSH levels. Baseline measures were reassessed at 6 months. Results: At the end of the study, by intention to treat, mean L-T4 doses were 1.50±0.07, 1.32±0.07, and 0.78±0.08 mg/μg (P< 0.001), and mean TSH levels were 1.85±0.25, 3.93±0.38, and 9.49±0.80 mU/L (P< 0.001), respectively, in the three arms. There were minor differences in a few outcomes between the three arms, which were no longer significant after correction for multiple comparisons. Subjects could not ascertain how their L-T4 doses had been adjusted (P = 0.55) but preferred L-T4 doses they perceived to be higher (P < 0.001). Conclusions: Altering L-T4 doses in hypothyroid subjects to vary TSH levels in and near the reference range does not affect quality of life, mood, or cognition. L-T4-treated subjects prefer perceived higher L-T4 doses despite a lack of objective benefit. Adjusting L-T4 doses in hypothyroid patients based on symptoms in these areas may not result in significant clinical improvement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1997-2008
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical


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