Dozing off in the middle of a conversation with your spouse is not a mistake anybody wants to make and one that definitely won’t be forgiven for a long, long time. But that’s exactly what started happening to 58-year-old Mumbai resident Suresh Gupta. All of a sudden, he began feeling extremely tired and sleepy by the end of the day.
Needless to say, the uncontrollable dozing off led to the brewing of tension between the couple, and Gupta’s wife thought he was losing interest in her. It was only after he visited a doctor and underwent a blood test that his thyroid hormonal imbalance emerged as the root of the problem. The couple had never heard of it before.
And there are many others like Gupta who suffer for a long time without having a clue about whats wrong with their health. According to Dr. R V Jayakumar, chairman, Indian Thyroid Society (ITS), “Millions of people have an undiagnosed thyroid problem, and don’t realise that it is the source of the other health challenges they face. Obesity, depression, fatigue, high cholesterol, infertility and many other conditions are often the direct result of undiagnosed and untreated thyroid conditions.”
Our thyroid gland is small, butterfly shaped, and is located in the throat. It makes, stores and releases thyroid hormones that influence every cell in the body. They regulate the body’s metabolism, control the heart rate, cholesterol level, body weight, energy level, muscle strength, skin condition, menstrual cycle and even memory function. In short, the gland is responsible for the body’s smooth functioning.
Any problem with the gland can disrupt one or many of these regular body functions. Sudden weight loss or gain, fatigue, tiredness, menstrual disorders leading to infertility are some of the symptoms associated with the glands malfunctioning. “Thyroid gland problems are of two types: underproduction of the thyroid hormone or hypothyroidism and overproduction of the hormone or hyperthyroidism. Of all thyroid-related cases in India, about 95 per cent are affected by hypothyroidism or underproduction of the hormone,” says Dr S M Bandookwala, consultant diabetologist, Dr L H Hiranandani Hospital.
Managing thyroid problems
Unlike other diseases, the thyroid dysfunction is certainly not fatal, considering the fact that all its symptoms can be fully reversed once treatment begins. But the condition’s disparate symptoms are often the cause of its late diagnosis and some unnecessary suffering. Ashok Patel, 57, who was diagnosed with hypothyroidism a few years ago, never suspected thyroid trouble when he had an accident after falling asleep while driving his car. But once diagnosed, he gave up driving for about two years until his feeling tired and sleepy symptoms could be managed.
The key thing therefore, say doctors, is to be alert and watch out for any sudden changes you notice about your body. “Weight gain, dry skin or hair, constipation, tiredness are not out of the ordinary. So you don’t need to rush to a doctor for a thyroid test just because you have dry hair. But keep an eye out for any sudden change. For example, if you are someone who never sweats much but have suddenly started sweating a lot, you could need a thyroid stimulating hormone blood test,” says Dr Manoj Chadha, consultant endocrinologist, P D Hinduja Hospital.
Catch it early
Moreover, if you catch the problem early, it also helps avoid further complications arising from thyroid dysfunction symptoms. “For instance, sudden weight gain because of thyroid complications can lead to diabetes and heart disease if the condition goes unchecked for a long time. So it only helps to be more aware of your body’s changes,” adds Chadha.