Association between chronic widespread musculoskeletal complaints & thyroid autoimmunity. Results from a community survey

OBJECTIVE: To test a hypothesis derived from observations in general

practice that thyroid antibodies were associated with chronic

widespread musculoskeletal complaints.

DESIGN:

Cross-sectional study of 40-42 year old men and women based on

a self-administered questionnaire and on results of blood

tests.

SETTING: Sarpsborg municipality, Norway.

PARTICIPANTS:

737 men and 771 women who attended the National Health

Screening Service’s mobile unit in 1989 and answered the

questionnaire.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Prevalence of

detectable microsomal thyroid antibodies in persons with and

without chronic widespread musculoskeletal complaints.

RESULTS: The prevalence of thyroid microsomal antibodies was

significantly higher in persons with than without chronic

widespread musculoskeletal complaints (16.0% versus 7.3%, p <

0.01). The increase was restricted to women (20.4% versus

11.6%, p = 0.02). Thyroid function tests did not differ

significantly between the two groups.

CONCLUSION: The

association between chronic widespread musculoskeletal pain

complaints and thyroid antibodies in women may reflect a

subgroup of patients in which thyroid autoimmunity, rather

than thyroid function, is important. A possible relationship

to fibromyalgia is discussed as well as a hypothetical role

for thyrotropin releasing hormone.

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