Hyperthyroidism and Hypothyroidism are just some of the thyroid gland disorders that people should be aware of. With the complications it can give to one’s health, having awareness of its existence is really important.
Millions of Filipinos are affected by problems with their thyroid, yet awareness of this disease is very low. The symptoms of thyroid disorders are often mistaken for other diseases, or worse, are ignored by patients with the disease.
Merck Inc. held a bloggers’ event at the Radisson Blu Hotel last September 29, 2016, in conjunction to the thyroid gland disorder.
The purpose of the event is to raise awareness of thyroid disorder which is very common to women. It was a night full of insights which were hosted by Dr. Chrysanthus Herrera of Medical Science and Government Affairs Manager of Merck along with the guest speaker, Dr. April Melody Abcede of the Philippine Society Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism.
Thyroid Disorders and Its Treatment
Did you know that according to a study by the Philippine Society of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism in 2012…
And that thought me of sharing to you the things I have learned that night since my sister in law has a goiter which could possibly link to a thyroid disorder. Dr. Abcede gave an informative talk on what the thyroid is, as well as the symptoms of thyroid diseases which I would be happy to share with you too.
What is thyroid?
The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped organ found at the lower-middle part of the neck. It is sometimes referred to as the “master controller” of metabolism and is important to health and well-being. The thyroid creates, stores, and releases thyroid hormones into the blood (T3 and T4). Thyroid hormones are important to the normal function of our body, and affect everything from the brain to our other organs.
According to Dr. Abcede, thyroid gland supplies thyroid hormones our body needs. A healthy thyroid produces balance supply of T3 and T4; it shouldn’t go down or go up. In any case that the thyroid hormones supply is imbalanced, it indicates a serious problem with your thyroid gland.
There are two main common thyroid disorders and these are hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism.
What is hypothyroidism?
This means that the thyroid is unable to produce enough thyroid hormone to meet the body’s needs. Because of this, metabolism slows down and the body starts to slow down its processes. Common causes of hypothyroidism include insufficient amounts of iodine in the food, surgical removal of the thyroid, autoimmune diseases, or radiation therapy of the thyroid.
To be able to know if you are having hypothyroidism, the only way to know for sure is to have a blood test to check the levels of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), and thyroid hormone levels in the blood (T3 and T4). Your TSH levels will be high and T3 and T4 will be low in hypothyroidism.
If diagnosed with hypothyroidism, they are recommended to consume foods rich in iodine. On the other hand, it can be treated by normalizing the levels of thyroid hormone in the blood. This is done by taking levothyroxine, or thyroid hormone replacement.
What is hyperthyroidism?
It is when the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone. Another term for this overactive thyroid gland is thyrotoxicosis. With too much thyroid hormone, your body’s metabolism goes into overdrive and body processes speed up beyond normal. An autoimmune condition known as Graves’ disease (diffuse toxic goiter) is one of the causes of hyperthyroidism.
This tends to run in families and typically affects young women. Hyperthyroidism may also be caused when lumps, or nodules, in the thyroid, produce too much thyroid hormone. This condition is known as nodular toxic goiter. If you are seeing lumps on your neck, it is essential to see your physician immediately.
Hyperthyroidism can’t be detected based on symptoms alone. You will need to undergo blood tests, including the check of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) and thyroid hormone levels in the blood (T3 and T4). You will have low TSH and high T3 and T4 if you are hyperthyroid.
If you have a family history of thyroid disorders and has these symptoms, consult your physician.
Unlike hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism can’t be treated with single treatment alone. The appropriate choice will be determined based on the cause of the hyperthyroidism, your age, the severity of your condition, and other factors as deemed relevant by your physician.
If left untreated, fatal conditions can occur. It may lead to irregular heartbeat and fractures from osteoporosis. A severe condition known as thyroid storm may also be triggered if hyperthyroidism is not controlled.
What is goiter/thyroid nodule/thyroid cancer?
Goiter refers to the abnormal enlargement of the thyroid gland. It can occur in hyperthyroidism (too much thyroid hormone), or in hypothyroidism (too little thyroid hormone), or in euthyroidism (correct amount of thyroid hormone). This means that whenever you feel a lump occurs in your neck, it can be toxic or non-toxic. Thus, evaluation is advised.
Goiters are most commonly caused by iodine deficiency. When there is not enough iodine in the diet, the thyroid tries to compensate by enlarging.
Thyroid nodules occur when there are abnormal growths of thyroid tissue.
There may be a single nodule or multiple nodules. These can produce thyroid hormone (toxic nodules). Sometimes, these growths may be malignant (thyroid cancer).
Thyroid cancer is rare compared to other cancers, but is considered very treatable and usually has high survival rates.
The treatment for goiter/thyroid nodule depends on correcting the underlying cause. If it is caused by iodine deficiency, you should be using adequately iodized salt or intake foods rich in iodine or you can be given iodine supplements to reduce the enlargement, although this does not completely remove the goiter. Surgery may be needed for cases of severely enlarged goiter.
Thyroid Disorders during Pregnancy
It is estimated that around one in 20 pregnant women will develop an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) during pregnancy.
Hypothyroidism in pregnancy, if left inadequately untreated, has been associated with numerous maternal complications such as anemia, muscle pain, congestive heart failure, hypertension, placental abnormalities, and postpartum bleeding. There are risks as well that are associated with the fetus during hypothyroidism, such as miscarriage, premature birth, and low birth weight.
How to know if you are having thyroid disorder during your pregnancy?
To be able to detect if you are having a thyroid disorder, you need to undergo screening. You should be screened for thyroid disorders if you have:
- Prior history of thyroid disorders or prior thyroid surgery
- Age > 30 years
- Symptoms of hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism
- Family history of thyroid dysfunction
- Residing in areas of known moderate to severe iodine deficiency
- Type 1 diabetes or other autoimmune disorders
- History of miscarriage, preterm delivery, or infertility
- Excessive obesity (BMI > 40)
- Use of amiodarone or lithium
It doesn’t mean that you are pregnant you are then exposed to having a thyroid disorder. Though it is possible particularly if you have a history of it but it occurs one in 20 pregnant women. Chances are not that high but it is still safe to undergo screening should you have a history of thyroid disorders.
More information can be found online in the website www.thyroid.ph. This is an online repository of information where people can learn more about thyroid disorders.
There are a lot of people who may have thyroid disorders but aren’t aware of its existence. It is important to have one’s thyroid checked as early as possible to prevent a serious problem.
Thyroid Awareness by Merck, Inc. | www.thyroid.ph | Facebook