A study conducted by multiple institutions has shed light on the impact of COVID-19 on the endocrine system, specifically the thyroid and adrenal glands. The endocrine system, responsible for regulating hormones that control bodily functions, has been identified as a potential target for SARS-CoV-2 infection due to the presence of ACE-2 receptors. The study aimed to assess the metabolic activity of these glands in COVID-19 patients using 18F-FDG PET/CT scans.
The findings of the study revealed that COVID-19 patients exhibited various thyroid dysfunctions, including transient thyrotoxicosis, sub-acute thyroiditis, Graves’ thyrotoxicosis, and hypothyroidism. Similar thyroid-related abnormalities have also been observed in individuals following SARS-CoV-2 vaccination. It is believed that the virus triggers inflammatory and autoimmune responses in the thyroid, leading to dysfunction.
In addition to the thyroid, the study also focused on the adrenal glands, which produce hormones like cortisol. Adrenal impairment in COVID-19 patients was attributed to factors such as adrenal infarction, hemorrhage, and the virus’s impact on cortisol production. The presence of ACE-2 receptors in certain zones of the adrenal cortex makes it susceptible to damage. Furthermore, the use of high-dose corticosteroids in COVID-19 treatment contributes to adrenal dysfunction. Adrenal insufficiency, along with thyroid dysfunction, has been suggested to play a role in the development and persistence of symptoms in long COVID patients.
Using 18F-FDG PET/CT scans, the study revealed that some COVID-19 patients exhibited increased metabolic activity in the thyroid gland, indicating possible inflammatory thyroiditis. On the other hand, COVID-19 patients showed lower metabolic activity in the adrenal glands, suggesting chronic hypofunction even after recovery. However, further research is needed to fully understand the underlying causes of these endocrine abnormalities.
As the medical community continues to navigate the challenges posed by COVID-19, monitoring the endocrine status of patients is crucial. This applies to both the acute phase of the disease and the long-term recovery phase. The findings from this study highlight the importance of addressing endocrine gland functionality in COVID-19 patients for their overall health and quality of life. With the emergence of long COVID, further research and clinical management focused on endocrine dysfunction are necessary to provide optimal care for patients.