To investigate the natural history and incidence of autoimmune thyroiditis (AIT) in paediatric patients with type 1 diabetes (T1D).
Since 1990, annual screening for thyroid disease has been performed in children and adolescents with T1D. Antibodies against thyroperoxidase (anti-TPO) and thyroglobulin (anti-TG) as well as TSH were measured in 659 patients (54.3% boys). In 126 patients, anti-TPO and anti-TG levels were followed at yearly intervals from onset up to five years of T1D. Anti-TPO above 30 U/ml and anti-TG above 20 U/ml were considered positive, values above 100 U/ml as significantly raised and indicative of AIT. L-thyroxine treatment was started if TSH was higher than 4.5 microU/ml and/or thyroid gland enlargement on thyroid ultrasound was present.
At initial screening, 15.4% of patients had raised anti-TPO and 14.4% anti-TG. Girls had more frequently raised antibodies than boys. Sixty two patients (9.4%, 61% girls) required treatment with L-thyroxine. The cumulative incidence (SE) of AIT after 10 years of diabetes was 0.14 (0.02), being significantly higher in females (0.18 (0.03)), particularly after the age of 12 years. At T1D onset, positive anti-TPO and anti-TG were present in 21 of 126 patients (16.7%), each. All patients with significantly increased values of anti-TPO (n = 17, 148-5340 U/ml) and anti-TG (n = 11, 140-2000 U/ml) at T1D onset remained positive during the following five years.
For early detection of autoimmune thyroiditis in children with T1D, measurement of anti-TPO and TSH at T1D onset and in yearly intervals after the age of 12 years is recommended.