According to several studies, there is a direct link between hypothyroidism and anemia.
Scientists are taking a huge leap in discovering the connection between thyroid hormone and the maturation of red blood cells to improve treatment results.
First, what are thyroid glands and thyroid hormones?
The human thyroid gland can be found in the neck which is producing hormones called the thyroid hormones to regulate metabolism as well as the synthesis of protein. Thyroid hormones affect every cell in the human body. For instance, thyroid hormones are also responsible for controlling the red blood cell production.
Some times, patients who have thyroid disorders usually develop anemia.
Red Blood Cell Production
Erythropoiesis or the red blood cell production is a complex process that is strictly regulated by the human body. The proteins involved in the genetic encoding are activated on the stages of bone marrow stem cell differentiation to red blood cell maturity.
One of the known proteins is hemoglobin, which is an essential factor for the transport of oxygen from the red blood cells through the bloodstream to the other parts of the body.
There were early studies about blood cultures having progenitors of blood cell in laboratories, switching the essential proteins, thus facilitating the production of red blood cells.
Is there truth about the connection between hypothyroidism and anemia?
Thyroid Hormones’ Role in Red Blood Cell Production
To find concrete evidence about the connection of red blood cells and thyroid hormones, the University of California, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or MIT, and the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research or WIBR conducted a thorough scientific study.
They were able to study red blood cell culture among animal subjects, shedding light on the link between hypothyroidism and anemia.
Because of the accuracy of the data garnered, the results of the study were featured in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Harvey Lodisha, a cell and molecular biologist, authored the findings. To make the data even more reliable and accurate, her credentials as a member of the WIBR and as a distinguished professor at MIT became a strong foundation of the study.
Based on the study, scientists aimed to identify the factors present in the blood which are important for the formation of red blood cells.
Charcoal was used to filter hydrophobic components present from serum. They found out that the filtered blood was unable to facilitate the formation of red blood cells, which implies that certain hydrophobic components help in the formation of red blood cells. When thyroid hormone was added to the filtered serum, the red blood cell production resumed; therefore, there is a strong connection between hypothyroidism and anemia.
Furthermore, the scientist discovered that when NCOA4 was triggered by thyroid hormone receptor beta, it acted as a regulator of red blood cell production. They used a chronic anemia mouse model to confirm that thyroid hormone receptor should be activated when using drug treatments.
Moreover, the drugs that activated this receptor were proven to be effective in reducing the symptoms of anemia with the stimulation of immature blood cell differentiation. This study proves that there is a significant relationship between hypothyroidism and anemia.
Characteristics of Anemia in Hypothyroid Patients
In December 2011, there was an study published online entitled, “Characteristics of Anemia in Subclinical and Overt Hypothyroid Patients.” In the said study, 400 participants were divided into groups. There were 100 participants who had overt hypothyroidism, 100 participants who had subclinical hypothyroidism, and 200 participants who had acted as the control group or the healthy participants.
The study aimed to know the relationship between hypothyroidism and anemia, showing their signs and symptoms. Among patients with overt hypothyroidism, researchers confirmed that they had high levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) – too high and too low TSH levels show thyroid problems – and low levels of thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine(T3), the thyroid hormones made up of iodine, an essential nutrient for thyroid health. Patients with subclinical hypothyroidism had high TSH and normal levels of T4 and T3.
With that said, the researchers also examined commonality of anemia in the sample groups, which shows that there was a 39 percent prevalence of anemia in subclinical hypothyroid patients. On the other hand, overt hypothyroid patients had an estimated 43 percent prevalence of anemia.
The results mean that there is an active link between hypothyroidism and anemia. The most common type of anemia among patients having hypothyroidism is chronic disease anemia. Patients who have anemia with an unknown causes should be suspected having hypothyroidism.
How Can These Findings Help Patients Today
With these studies about hypothyroidism as well as anemia presented, we can say that the thyroid hormone plays a major role in the production of red blood cells aside from protein synthesis and metabolism. Patients who are suffering from anemia of unknown origin should be checked for possible hypothyroidism.
These findings are considered as a milestone in finding the best medical intervention for hypothyroid and anemic patients, whether they would require short-term or long-term hormone therapy. As mentioned above, drug treatments that activate the thyroid hormones can reduce the symptoms of anemia, targeting the root cause which is thyroid problem.
These medical discoveries can serve as a stepping stone in formulating new medical treatments to cure and prevent hypothyroidism and anemia, leading to a future with fewer ailments and deficiencies.