Driving Under the Influence: For Patients with Hypothyroidism, the Feeling's not that Different

First Posted: Jun 24, 2014 10:07 AM EDT

Statistics show that an estimated 20 million Americans suffer from some form of thyroid disease, though 60 percent may be unaware of this condition. Those dealing with the effects of hypothyroidism could be at an increased risk of danger when driving, according to a recent study that was presented Sunday at the International Society of Endocrinology and the Endocrine Society: ICE/ENDO 2014 in Chicago. Researchers from the University of Kentucky and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Lexington, Ky., discovered that driving with hypothyroidism may be just as bad as driving under the influence of alcohol, in some cases. 

"We found that hypothyroid patients being tested on a driving simulator had a similar performance to that of drivers with a blood alcohol level above the legal limit in the U.S.," said co-author Dr. Charles Smith, from the University of Kentucky, in a news release. "Physicians should warn their hypothyroid patients to avoid driving until they have been sufficiently treated with thyroid hormone."

For the study, researchers examined 32 patients with thyroid cancer. All participants underwent preparation for radioactive iodine scanning with the halting of their thyroid hormone. Participants were then asked to take a series of neurological psych tests while on and off the thyroid hormone.

The study findings revealed that hypothyroid patients who suffered from symptoms of depression took longer to brake on simulated driving tests. In fact, researchers discovered that their performance was similar to drivers with a blood alcohol level of 0.082 g/100 mL.

"Our results uncover a potential public and personal health hazard regarding impaired hypothyroid drivers," Ain added. 

However, for those who were properly treated for their thyroid issues, researchers found that study results could be reversed.

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