Hypothyroidism and reversible kidney dysfunction: an essential relationship to recognize

Endocr Pract. 2014 May;20(5):490-9. doi: 10.4158/EP12084.RA.


Objective: To report 3 cases of reversible hypothyroidism-induced kidney dysfunction and review the interaction between these commonly encountered, yet seemingly disparate, conditions.

Methods: We describe the clinical course and laboratory and physical findings of 3 patients who presented with kidney dysfunction that improved after initiating thyroid hormone replacement therapy. We also review similar cases in the literature and discuss the pathophysiologic mechanisms.

Results: A 68-year-old male presented with classical signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism, including fatigue, confusion, and gait imbalance. Physical exam showed bradycardia, thyromegaly, slow mentation, and cracked, thin skin; he was found to have decreased kidney function. Second, a 42-year-old previously healthy female presented with bilateral hand swelling and elevated serum creatinine with an otherwise unremarkable physical exam. The third patient was a 72-year-old male with advanced heart failure on amiodarone and stage 3 chronic kidney disease who presented with fatigue, acute kidney injury, and lower extremity edema. In all cases, serum creatinine and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) were elevated at presentation (1.4-3.0 mg/dL and 94.1-184 mIU/L respectively), and free thyroxine (T4) was low (undetectable-0.4 ng/dL). The initiation or increased dose of levothyroxine normalized serum creatinine to baseline within 2 to 10 months.

Conclusion: Hypothyroidism and kidney dysfunction are both commonly encountered clinical entities, but the interplay between the thyroid gland and kidneys may be infrequently recalled, causing the reversible relationship between these 2 disorders to be missed.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Glomerular Filtration Rate
  • Humans
  • Hypothyroidism / complications*
  • Kidney Diseases / etiology*
  • Male
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / etiology