Hypothyroidism symptoms can lead to impaired driving similar to alcohol-induced DUI (driving under the influence). Hypothyroidism results from the insufficient hormone production by the thyroid gland, which can slow down many bodily processes including brain function. Until now, little research has been conducted on the extent of brain impairment and whether or not hypothyroidism patients are safe drivers.
Lead investigator Dr. Kenneth Ain said, “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. Physicians should warn their hypothyroid patients to avoid driving until they have been sufficiently treated with thyroid hormone.”
The study consisted of 32 patients with thyroid cancer who underwent preparation for radioactive iodine scanning by stopping thyroid hormones. These patients were evaluated through neurological and psychological tests along with a driving simulator. They were studied while taking hormones and again whilst off the hormones, and then finally one more time again on hormone therapy.
Hypothyroidism patients showed depression and neurological function decline, which resulted in increased automobile braking time similarly seen in drivers with a blood alcohol level of 0.082 g/100 mL. When patients were on hormone therapy, these issues were resolved.
Dr. Ain concluded, “Our results uncover a potential public and personal health hazard regarding impaired hypothyroid drivers.”
Signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism in adults
Depending on the severity of hypothyroidism, the signs and symptoms can vary. Signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism can include:
- Greater sensitivity to cold
- Dry skin
- Weight gain
- Puffy face
- Muscle weakness
- Elevated cholesterol
- Muscle aches
- Pain, stiffness, swelling of joints
- Heavier or irregular menstrual cycles
- Thinning hair
- Slow heart rate
- Impaired memory
As mentioned, severity of hypothyroidism will determine which symptoms you experience and how intense they are. If hypothyroidism becomes advanced – known as myxedema – it can be life-threatening. Signs and symptoms of myxedema include low blood pressure, decrease in breathing, decreased body temperature, unresponsiveness, and even coma.
Spotting the signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism early on is essential, as it can prompt you to speak with your doctor, get tested, and begin treatment right away.
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