Hypothyroid myopathy: A peculiar clinical presentation of thyroid failure. Review of the literature

Rev Endocr Metab Disord. 2016 Dec;17(4):499-519. doi: 10.1007/s11154-016-9357-0.


Abnormalities in thyroid function are common endocrine disorders that affect 5-10 % of the general population, with hypothyroidism occurring more frequently than hyperthyroidism. Clinical symptoms and signs are often nonspecific, particularly in hypothyroidism. Muscular symptoms (stiffness, myalgias, cramps, easy fatigability) are mentioned by the majority of patients with frank hypothyroidism. Often underestimated is the fact that muscle symptoms may represent the predominant or the only clinical manifestation of hypothyroidism, raising the issue of a differential diagnosis with other causes of myopathy, which sometimes can be difficult. Elevated serum creatine kinase, which not necessarily correlates with the severity of the myopathic symptoms, is certainly suggestive of muscle impairment, though it does not explain the cause. Rare muscular manifestations, associated with hypothyroidism, are rhabdomyolysis, acute compartment syndrome, Hoffman's syndrome and Kocher-Debré-Sémélaigne syndrome. Though the pathogenesis of hypothyroid myopathy is not entirely known, proposed mechanisms include altered glycogenolytic and oxidative metabolism, altered expression of contractile proteins, and neuro-mediated damage. Correlation studies of haplotype, muscle gene expression and protein characterization, could help understanding the pathophysiological mechanisms of this myopathic presentation of hypothyroidism.

Keywords: Creatine kinase; Hoffmann’s syndrome; Hypothyroidism; Koche– Debre’–Semelaigne syndrome; Myalgia; Rhabdomyolysis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Congenital Hypothyroidism / metabolism
  • Congenital Hypothyroidism / pathology
  • Humans
  • Hypertrophy / metabolism
  • Hypertrophy / pathology
  • Hypothyroidism / metabolism
  • Hypothyroidism / pathology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal / pathology
  • Muscular Diseases / metabolism
  • Muscular Diseases / pathology*
  • Rhabdomyolysis / metabolism
  • Rhabdomyolysis / pathology
  • Thyroid Gland / metabolism
  • Thyroid Gland / pathology*

Supplementary concepts

  • Kocher-Debre-Semelaigne syndrome