Clinical Profiles of Thyroid Dermopathy: A Dermato-Endocrinological Perspective

DOI: 10.2478/jim-2020-0031


Thyroid disorders sometimes have extra-thyroidal manifestations. Hyperthyroidism is a clinical syndrome resulting from excessive secretion of thyroid hormones. The most common cause is Graves’ disease. About 0.5–4.3% of patients with Graves’ disease have an infiltrative dermopathy called thyroid dermopathy, which is due to excessive deposition of glycosaminoglycans from activated fibroblasts. Skin fibroblasts are activated by thyroid stimulating hormone receptor antibodies the whole process being initiated by T lymphocytes. Rarely, thyroid dermopathy is also found in other thyroid disorders such as Hashimoto thyroiditis. The diffuse non-pitting edema variant is the most common clinical presentation. Other variants include the nodular, plaque, mixed, and elephantiasis types. Usually, the main concerns of the patients are cosmetic, discomfort, and difficulty in wearing shoes. Thyroid dermopathy usually presents after the diagnosis of Graves’ disease, but it may also present together or sometime after this condition. Rarely, thyroid dermopathy presents before the diagnosis of Graves’ disease is made. Apart from the shin and feet, other sites that can be affected include the arms, forearms, back, thighs, pinna, and nose. The management is multidisciplinary, involving dermatologists and endocrinologists. Usually, controlling the thyroid dysfunction does not translate into regression of the skin lesions. However, many patients have their thyroid dermopathy regress spontaneously, while others usually require local therapy. Other therapeutic options include systemic therapy such as pentoxifylline, compressive physiotherapy, and surgery.