COVID survivors have been warned of a complication that could strike months after recovery – and impact them for years to come.
Researchers have found a link between thyroid dysfunction and Covid infection.
The thyroid is a gland that sits at the front of the neck.
It produces hormones that control a variety of bodily functions; body temperature, heart rate, digestion and metabolism.
When someone’s thyroid is not working properly, and too much or too little hormones are being produced, they are likely to have symptoms day-to-day.
A team from the University of Milan, Italy, studied 100 people who had been admitted to hospital for Covid.
They found thyroiditis – inflammation of the thyroid, causing lower hormone production – was frequent in participants.
A year later, half the patients still had signs of thyroiditis in scans.
“This suggests that the Covid-19-associated thyroiditis was severe in this population,” Dr Antonio C Bianco, professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, told Medical News Today.
“Right now it seems that their thyroid function tests are normal and the ultrasonographic findings were the only abnormalities.”
But he added: “I would not be surprised if they were more likely to develop primary hypothyroidism after five or ten years.”
Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) is when the thyroid gland does not make enough hormones, which causes symptoms.
Common signs include tiredness, weight gain and feeling depressed.
The NHS says you should see a GP if you have these symptoms, or sensitivity to the cold, dry skin and hair or muscle aches.
A test will reveal if you have an underactive thyroid, which can be treated with medication.
The study, recently presented at the 24th European Congress of Endocrinology in Milan, was led by Dr Ilaria Muller, assistant professor in endocrinology.
Dr Muller reassured that any long-term problems with the thyroid-related to Covid are unlikely.
She said: “Even if the areas of thyroiditis within the thyroid gland persist for months after the infection, the thyroid function is promptly restored and no apparent increase of thyroid autoimmunity has been observed.
“Thus long-term consequences on the thyroid function are unlikely.”