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Alcohol Similar to Hypothyroidism in Driving

Update Date: Jun 23, 2014 10:04 PM EDT

Driving with hypothyroidism may be just as bad as driving drunk according to a new study.

Researchers found that people with insufficient thyroid hormone can experience impaired driving similar to those who are driving when intoxicated by alcohol.

Previous studies revealed that the condition could interfere with many bodily functions including cognition.

Senior researcher Dr. Kenneth Ain and his team from the University of Kentucky and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Lexington, KY, wanted to see if hypothyroidism significantly impaired driving ability.

The latest study involved 32 patients with thyroid cancer. Study participants underwent preparation for radioactive iodine scanning by halting their thyroid hormone. Participants then asked to take a series of neurological psychological and driving tests while on and off the thyroid hormone.

"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.," co-author Dr. Charles Smith, from the University of Kentucky, said in a news release. "Physicians should warn their hypothyroid patients to avoid driving until they have been sufficiently treated with thyroid hormone."

The findings also revealed that hypothyroid patients who suffered symptoms of depression also took longer to brake on driving simulating tests. Researchers found that their performance was similar to drivers with a blood alcohol level of 0.082 g/100 mL.

However, taking thyroid hormone reversed all of these effects, according to researchers.

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

The findings were presented Sunday at the joint meeting of the International Society of Endocrinology and the Endocrine Society: ICE/ENDO 2014 in Chicago.

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