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Patients' attitudes and perceptions towards treatment of hypothyroidism in general practice: an in-depth qualitative interview study

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Simon PearceORCiD, Dr Salman Razvi, Dr Scott Wilkes



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


Background: Suboptimal thyroid hormone replacement is common in patients with hypothyroidism and the behavioural factors underlying this are poorly understood. Aim: To explore the attitudes and perceptions of patients to thyroid hormone replacement therapy. Design & setting: An in-depth qualitative interview study with patients with hypothyroidism residing in Northumberland, and Tyne and Wear, UK. Method: Twenty-seven patients participated, of which 15 patients had thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) levels within the reference range (0.4–4.0 mU/L) and 12 patients had TSH levels outside the reference range. A grounded theory approach was used to explore and develop emerging themes, which were mapped to the health belief model (HBM). Results: Patients generally had a low understanding of their condition or of the consequences of suboptimal thyroid hormone replacement. Patients that had experienced hypothyroid symptoms at initial diagnosis had a better perception of disease susceptibility, and this was reflected in excellent adherence to levothyroxine in this group of patients. The main benefits of optimal thyroid replacement were improved wellbeing and performance. However, patients who remained unwell despite a normal serum TSH level felt that their normal result presented a barrier to further evaluation of their symptoms by their GP. Conclusion: Educating patients with hypothyroidism regarding the consequences of inadequate thyroid hormone replacement may reduce barriers and improve treatment outcomes. An over-reliance on TSH as a sole marker of wellbeing reduced opportunities for clinicians to address patient symptoms. Evaluating symptoms in combination with biochemical indices, may lead to better patient outcomes than relying on laboratory tests alone.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Dew R, King K, Okosieme OE, Pearce S, Donovan G, Taylor P, Leese G, Hickey J, Razvi S, Dayan C, Wilkes S

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: BJGP Open

Year: 2017

Volume: 1

Issue: 2

Online publication date: 11/07/2017

Acceptance date: 28/02/2017

Date deposited: 24/12/2018

ISSN (electronic): 2398-3795

Publisher: Royal College of General Practitioners


DOI: 10.3399/bjgpopen17X100977


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