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Thyroid Problem Can Lead to Sick Leaves From Work, Study Finds

Thyroid Problem Can Lead to Sick Leaves From Work, Study Finds

The gland secretes hormones that regulate the body's energy use, oxygen consumption and heat production

TUESDAY, June 17, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- People with an overactive thyroid gland -- called hyperthyroidism -- are more likely to take extended sick leave from work than those without the disorder, new research finds.

This is particularly true the first year after a person is diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, according to the study published June 17 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

The thyroid is located in the front of the neck and secretes hormones that regulate the body's energy use, oxygen consumption and heat production. The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is an autoimmune disorder called Grave's disease, in which the immune system attacks the thyroid gland.

People with Grave's disease can develop eye problems and swelling of the thyroid gland, known as a goiter.

In the new study, researchers analyzed sick leave and disability pension claims among 862 workers in Denmark who were treated for a thyroid condition, along with a control group of more than 7,000 people without thyroid problems.

"When we examined sick leave records, our research found patients with hyperthyroidism faced a significantly higher risk of missing work for three weeks or longer due to illness compared to healthy controls," Mette Andersen Nexo, of the National Research Centre for the Working Environment and the University of Copenhagen, said in a journal news release.

Workers with eye complications from Graves' disease were seven times more likely than those in the control group to take an extended sick leave within a year of diagnosis. The risk fell in subsequent years, but was still twice as high, the study found.

People with eye complications from Graves' disease were also four times more likely to retire on a disability pension than those in the control group.

Compared to those in the control group, workers who had hyperthyroidism but no eye complications were nearly twice as likely to take extended sick leave within a year of diagnosis, the study authors said.

Having an underactive thyroid -- called hypothyroidism -- did not have a significant effect on sick leave, the researchers said.

"The findings demonstrate the potential socioeconomic effects thyroid conditions can have, but also indicate that socioeconomic effects diminish once the disorders are treated," Nexo said. "It's important not only for patients, but for employers and society as a whole, to ensure that people who have thyroid conditions receive the medical care they need."

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about hyperthyroidism (http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/hyperthyroidism.printerview.all.html ).

SOURCE: Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, news release, June 17, 2014