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BACKGROUND: There is increasing evidence of an association between organ specific autoimmune diseases, particularly autoimmune thyroid disease and respiratory morbidity. A study was undertaken to determine whether patients with autoimmune thyroid disease have objective evidence of airway inflammation and dysfunction. METHODS: Twenty six non-smoking women with treated hypothyroidism and 19 non-smoking controls completed a symptom questionnaire and underwent full lung function tests, capsaicin cough reflex sensitivity measurement, methacholine challenge test, and sputum induction over two visits. RESULTS: Symptoms of cough (p = 0.01), dyspnoea (p = 0.01), sputum production (p = 0.004), and wheeze (p = 0.04) were reported more commonly in patients than controls. Patients with hypothyroidism had heightened cough reflex sensitivity compared with controls (geometric mean concentration of capsaicin causing five coughs: 40 v 108 mmol/l; mean difference 1.4 doubling doses; 95% confidence interval of difference 0.4 to 2.5; p = 0.008) and a significantly higher proportion of patients had airway hyperresponsiveness (methacholine provocative concentration (PC(20)) <8 mg/ml: 38% v 0%; p = 0.016). Patients with hypothyroidism also had a significantly higher induced sputum total neutrophil cell count (p = 0.01), total lymphocyte count (p = 0.02), and sputum supernatant interleukin-8 concentrations (p = 0.048). CONCLUSION: Patients with treated hypothyroidism report more respiratory symptoms and have objective evidence of airway dysfunction and inflammation.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





249 - 253


Biomarkers, Bronchitis, Case-Control Studies, Cross-Sectional Studies, Dyspnea, Female, Forced Expiratory Volume, Humans, Hypothyroidism, Leukocyte Count, Middle Aged, Neutrophils, Sputum, Statistics, Nonparametric, Vital Capacity