Has there been a sudden unexplained weight gain or loss? Do you feel lethargic, anxious or suffer from frequent mood swings? Do not blame it purely on stress, as it could have been triggered due to abnormal levels of thyroid hormone.
It is estimated that every 10th adult in India suffers from thyroid malfunction. Thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the front portion of the neck, and is responsible for regulating body’s metabolism. When thyroid gland does not function properly — under or over produces hormones, it can drastically affect your health; particularly your weight, energy levels and mood.
According to health experts, more than 50% adults, mostly women, remain undiagnosed till late stages. Low awareness about the symptoms, not only among people but even doctors, is a contributing factor.
“Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland) has increased nearly four-five fold among women in the 20-40 age group,” said Dr SK Wangnoo, senior consultant endocrinologist and diabetologist, Indraprastha Apollo’s Centre for Obesity, Diabetes and Endocrinology.
In fact, thyroid associated with pregnancy, dyslipidemia (abnormal amount of cholesterol and/or fat in the blood) and depression constitutes a major chunk of the total number of cases, as these trigger hormonal imbalances in the body.
During pregnancy, the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth and placental abnormalities increase if the woman suffers from hypothyroidism.
Addressing the need for early screening and management of thyroid dysfunction, the Indian Thyroid Society recently launched three guidelines.
The guidelines recommend screening for hypothyroidism in pregnant women at the first antenatal visit by measuring TSH levels. However, thyroid dysfunction by itself is not an indication for termination of pregnancy. In case overt hypothyroidism is diagnosed then medicines to normalize thyroid function must be started soon.
Hypothyroidism is associated with the risk of cardio-vascular disease as it causes increased levels of bad cholesterol and hypertension. It is recommended that doctors screen patients with dyslipidemia for thyroid.
Doctors treating patients for depression must refer them to undergo a TSH test to detect hypothyroidism, as anxiety and depression are the most common symptoms of the disorder.
“Depression, heart disease, high cholesterol, infertility, and other medical conditions could be directly related to undiagnosed and untreated thyroid disorders. The new guidelines will help us enforce the need for a patient to undergo a thorough thyroid evaluation and consult their doctor for treatment to avoid complications,” said Dr Ambrish Mithal, chairman, endocrinology and diabetes at Gurgaon’s Medanta— The Medicity.
Once the treatment starts, however, weight gain due to hypothyroidism stabilises. So, if you are one of those pilling kilos in the garb of thyroid, exercise and eating in moderation should be your mantra.
What is the thyroid gland?
The thyroid gland is located in the neck and produces thyroid hormones which help the body use energy, stay warm and keep the brain, heart, muscles, and other organs working normally.
Apart from poor lifestyle, what causes thyroid disorders?
You are at risk if someone in your family has a thyroid disorder. Also, women are at a higher risk and should get annually screened for thyroid levels after the age of 30.
What are the early warning signs?
Get tested if you have become irritable, anxious, have frequent mood swings or difficulty in sleeping for more than three months.
How many types of thyroid disorders are there?
Two types: hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. The former consists nearly 90% of thyroid disorders.