Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Abstract Alterations in circulatory levels of total T4 (TT4), total T3 (TT3), free T4 (FT4), free T3 (FT3), thyrotropin (TSH) and T3 uptake (T3U) were studied in male and female sea-level residents (SLR) at sea level, in Armed forces personnel staying at high altitude (3750 m) for prolonged duration (acclimatized lowlanders, ALL) and in high-altitude natives (HAN). Identical studies were also performed on male ALL who trekked to an extreme altitude of 5080 m and stayed at an altitude of more than 6300 m for about 6 months. The total as well as free thyroid hormones were found to be significantly higher in ALL and HAN as compared to SLR values. Both male as well as female HAN had higher levels of thyroid hormones. The rise in hormone levels in different ALL ethnic groups drawn from amongst the southern and northern parts of the country was more or less identical. In both HAN and ALL a decline in FT3 and FT4 occurred when these subjects trekked at subzero temperatures to extreme altitude of 5080 m but the levels were found to be higher in ALL who stayed at 6300 m for a prolonged duration. Plasma TSH did not show any appreciable change at lower altitudes but was found to be decreased at extreme altitude. The increase in thyroid hormones at high altitude was not due to an increase in hormone binding proteins, since T3U was found to be higher at high altitudes. A decline in TSH and hormone binding proteins and an increase in the free moiety of the hormones is indicative of a subtle degree of tissue hyperthyroidism which may be playing an important role in combating the extreme cold and hypoxic environment of high altitudes.
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