- Women are more prone to Thyroid dysfunction than men
- Subclinical Hypothyroidism emerged as the biggest thyroid disorder across India
New Delhi, 24th May, 2018: Located in the middle of the lower neck, Thyroid is a little two-inch butterfly-like hormone-producing gland that regulates various aspects of the body’s metabolism including the rate at which the body produces energy from nutrients and oxygen. The hormone flows in the blood and travels to all the parts of the body and can impact various organs. It also influences critical body functions such as protein synthesis, body temperature control and heart-rate as well as regulating the impact of different hormones on the body.
Part of the endocrine system, the thyroid is critical to maintain everyday health. It produces two major hormones known as the Thyroxin or T4 (Tetraiodothyronine) and T3 (Triiodothyronine).The pituitary produces a Thyroid Stimulating Hormone which controls and monitors the amount of T4 & T3 produced and released by the Thyroid gland.
In India, Thyroid disorders are on a rise with more than forty two million people suffering from different types of thyroid disorders. Most Thyroid problems cannot be cured but can be completely managed or controlled. Thyroid glandmal function can lead to:
- Hypothyroidism (Underactive Thyroid) -1 in 10 adults in India suffer from hypothyroidism, a condition where the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone. Symptoms include fatigue, depression, Muscle and joint pain, gaining excessive body weight, dry skin, harsh voice and irregular menstrual cycle.
Untreated Hypothyroidism can lead to goiter which is seen as a bulge in the neck, atherosclerosis leading to conditions like stroke, increase in cholesterol levels, problems of infertility, weakness and malaise.
- Hyperthyroidism (Overactive Thyroid)–Not as common as hypothyroidism, here an overactive gland produces excess thyroid hormone mainly due to conditions such as Graves’ disease or a tumor. Graves’ disease causes antibodies produced against one’s own thyroid gland to stimulate it and release thyroid hormones. Even excessive intake of iodine or the hormonal medicines themselves can cause hyperthyroidism. Affected persons experience excessive sweating, enlarged thyroid gland, rapid heart-rate, puffiness around the eyes, fine hair, and smooth velvety skin.
Untreated Hyperthyroidism could lead to severe conditions like sudden cardiac arrest, arrhythmia (abnormal heartbeat), osteoporosis, cardiac dilatation and pregnancy problems like miscarriage, preterm birth, preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy), fetal thyroid dysfunction and poor fetal growth.
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis– An autoimmune disease, the condition initially leads to inflammation of the thyroid gland causing hormone leakage and leading to hyperthyroidism. Over time, the inflammation causes hypothyroidism. Symptoms include fatigue and unexplained weight gain and is treated using synthetic hormones under the guidance of a medical professional.
- Goitre-A condition which leads to abnormal enlargement of Thyroid gland, it develops due to iodine deficiency or inflammation of the thyroid gland. Symptoms include swelling and coughing and can also lead to throat tightness or trouble breathing.
- Thyroid nodules- A thyroid nodule is a solid or fluid-filled lump in thyroid gland and is a benign condition without any symptoms. There are, however, treatment options for larger or cancerous nodules, which bring with them symptoms.
- Thyroid cancer- Prevalent in the 30+ age group, Thyroid cancer develops in the thyroid gland tissue. Patients may experience no symptoms or notice a lump in their neck. The cause of thyroid cancer may involve a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Treatment options include surgery, hormone therapy, radioactive iodine, radiation and in some cases chemotherapy.
Women tend to be more susceptible to thyroid related problems as compared to men. Men have up to 8 times less chance of developing a thyroid disorder than women, but it is still a threat. Men tend to exhibit additional symptoms including a decrease in muscular strength, erectile dysfunction and decrease in sex drive, etc.
Key lifestyle changes suggested by experts to prevent Thyroid related problems, especially amongst patients found more susceptible (due to genetics etc) include:
- Regular check-ups: A preventive mind-set can go a long way in ensuring that critical functions like thyroid do not go awry. Physicians sometimes depend only on blood tests for diagnosis and may miss out on thyroid disorder.
- Stay hydrated: drinking plenty of water helps control body temperature, keeping skin hydrated, eliminating fatigue and lethargy and loosening of stool. Hypothyroid patients are required to drink 8-10 glasses of water to speed up the metabolism resulting in speedy weight loss.
- Diet control: Apart from low sugar, low fat and high protein diets, Vitamin D and Iodine are essential in adequate quantities.
- Regular exercise including some moderate cardiovascular exercises, strength and weight training exercises are extremely beneficial. Many experts put their faith in yoga and related exercise regimens to keep thyroid issues in check.
- Avoid smoking or drinking alcohol: Alcohol suppresses the thyroid gland functions as it is a depressant. Tobacco equally harmful as it blocks the hormones.
- No self-medication: Self-medication comes with the risk of misdiagnosis. Incorrect dosage for prolonged periods can be fatal.
Dr. Avinash Phadke, President Technology & Mentor (Clinical Pathology) SRL Diagnostics said, “Although research is still underway it’s been known that Genetics plays a crucial role in both determination of thyroid hormones and TSH concentrations, and susceptibility to autoimmune thyroid disease. People who have a history of thyroid problems in their family would be predisposed to thyroid abnormalities. Further, iodine deficiency has been the most common cause of thyroid disorders and subsequent brain damage. Currently, with more than two decades of sustained activity 86% of world population has access to iodized salt. Only regular check-ups and monitoring of this critical gland, especially after during pregnancy and after the age of 30, can let a person know whether her or his thyroid is in order.”
On the gender disparity, Dr. Phadke explained, “A Woman’s body is more prone to different hormonal leaps, more sensitive to hormonal changes and is overall, more reactive than the male body. Iodine deficiency leads to further complications in the female thyroid system. Stress is also known cause a spike in TSH hormone release. Women undergoing an annual screening of thyroid gland can enable us to detect problems earlier, and it will be thus easier to start the treatment.” added Dr Phadke.
With early diagnosis, thyroid hormone replacement, a safe and effective treatment, can be implemented. It helps manage symptoms and prevent further complications. In Subclinical hypothyroidism, a milder form of hypothyroidism, functions just below normal level is a silent disease which is being increasingly diagnosed in the Indian population. It is the most widespread thyroid dysfunction in India is not that unexpected, as without regular testing this condition remains clinically undetected.