Alternative treatments for thyroid disorders include animal thyroid extract and preparations containing iodine. These treatments can affect thyroid status and their use may be unrecognised by doctors treating patients with thyroid disorders. We aimed to determine the nature, availability and use of alternative treatments for thyroid disorders (ATTDs).
Patient questionnaires were administered to all patients with a diagnosis of a thyroid disorder attending the endocrinology out-patient clinic over 6 consecutive weeks. We also searched the internet, and visited 8 local health food shops to determine what would be recommended for a slightly under-active thyroid that did not require thyroxine replacement.
The questionnaire response rate was 88% (60/68). A quarter (15/60) of patients reported using alternative medical treatments, and 10% (6/60) of patients reported current use of ATTDs, including animal thyroid extract. Whilst 88% of patients reported being asked about their medications by the doctors at the clinic, only 29% were asked about possible ATTD use. A wide variety of ATTDs were available via the internet. Local outlets readily advised taking ATTDs for a thyroid disorder that did not merit conventional treatment.
A small but significant proportion of patients with thyroid disorders are taking ATTDs and this is likely to be largely unrecognised by medical staff. These data suggest that patients attending the endocrinology out-patient clinic should specifically and routinely be asked whether they are taking ATTDs.