High prevalence of autoimmune thyroiditis in schoolchildren after elimination of iodine deficiency in northwestern Greece

Thyroid. 2003 May;13(5):485-9. doi: 10.1089/105072503322021151.


The current iodine status and the impact of silent iodine prophylaxis on the prevalence of autoimmune thyroiditis among schoolchildren in a formerly iodine-deficient community in northwestern Greece, were investigated. The findings were compared to those obtained from a similar survey conducted 7 years previously in the same area. A total of 302 schoolchildren (12-18 years of age) from a mountainous area of northwestern Greece were examined for the presence of goiter, and blood and urine samples were collected for assessment of thyroid function, antithyroid antibodies and urinary iodine excretion. In those children (n = 42) with palpable goiter or positive antibodies and/or a thyrotropin (TSH) level greater than 5 mU/L, thyroid ultrasonography was performed to estimate thyroid gland size and morphology. Median urinary iodine concentration in the children was 20.21 microg/dL, indicating sufficient iodine intake. Thyroid function was normal in all but 7 children, who had subclinical hypothyroidism (2.5%). Antithyroid antibodies (antithyroid peroxidase [TPO] and/or antithyroglobulin [Tg]) were positive in 32 children, including those with subclinical hypothyroidism (10.6%). Twenty-nine of these children (9.6%) also had the characteristic echo pattern of thyroiditis on ultrasound and were diagnosed to have autoimmune thyroiditis. In comparison to data from our previous survey 7 years ago, there has been a threefold increase in the prevalence of autoimmune thyroiditis among schoolchildren. In conclusion, silent iodine prophylaxis has resulted in the elimination of iodine deficiency in Greece, and this has been accompanied by an increase in the prevalence of autoimmune thyroiditis.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Autoantibodies / blood
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Greece / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Hypothyroidism / blood
  • Hypothyroidism / epidemiology
  • Hypothyroidism / immunology
  • Iodine / deficiency*
  • Iodine / urine
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Thyroiditis, Autoimmune / blood
  • Thyroiditis, Autoimmune / epidemiology*
  • Thyroiditis, Autoimmune / immunology
  • Thyroiditis, Autoimmune / urine
  • Thyrotropin / blood


  • Autoantibodies
  • Thyrotropin
  • Iodine