Biometrology of physical properties of skin in thyroid dysfunction


*Corresponding author, Department of Dermatopathology, CHU Sart Tilman, B-4000 Liège, Belgium, tel. +32 43662408; fax +32 43662976; E-mail:


Objective  There is ample clinical evidence that skin is responsive to physiopathological levels of circulating thyroid hormones. The aim of the study was to assess some physical changes of the skin in the presence of moderate thyroid dysfunction.

Setting University Hospital.  Patients and methods  A total of 119 adults suffering from hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism and 60 healthy controls were enrolled in this study. Hormonal dosages (TSH, fT3, fT4) were assessed in the serum. A series of biometrological assessments were also performed on the volar and dorsal aspects of the forearms. These included electrometric assessments (Nova Dermal Phase Meter®, Corneometer®), evaporimetry (Tewameter®), colorimetry (Mexameter®), ultrasound shear wave propagation (Reviscometer®) and squamometry X. Correlations were searched between each of the serum hormonal dosages and each of the biometrological parameters.

Results  The hormonal changes in the untreated patients with thyroid dysfunction were modest in intensity. A few outlier values with regard to the normal range were found for each biometrological parameter. No correlations were found between fT3 or fT4 and each of the physical parameters. By contrast, significant negative linear correlations were found between thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and skin hydration measured by the Corneometer® and the Nova DPM®.

Conclusion  This multipronged exploratory study shows that direct or indirect effects of TSH may influence the stratum corneum hydration. This correlation seemed very sensitive, as no other specific biophysical parameter was significantly correlated with the thyroid hormonal concentrations in the serum. However, our findings do not exclude the possibility of some other skin changes supervening in case of more severe thyroid dysfunction. The mechanism by which TSH alters the stratum corneum hydration is yet unknown.