Health Watch
  • Thyroid disorders may result in low or high thyroid hormone levels.
  • Increasing awareness about the condition will result in early diagnosis and treatment of thyroid disorders.
  • Preventive measures may be useful in some patients.
The World Thyroid Day is being celebrated on the 25th of May 2016 for the 9th year in succession to increase awareness about thyroid diseases. It is organized through the collaborative efforts of the European Thyroid Association (ETA), the American Thyroid Association (ATA), the Asia & Oceania Thyroid Association and the Latin American Thyroid Society.
World Thyroid Day 2016
World Thyroid Day 2016

Diseases or disorders of the thyroid are not limited to the small butterfly-shaped gland in front of the neck, but the effects are observed all over the body. The thyroid hormones secreted by the thyroid gland control body metabolism and therefore, can cause consequences to almost any body system. The thyroid gland secretes three important hormones namely thyroxine (T4), triiodothyronine (T3), and calcitonin.

Thyroid Diseases - Statistics

  • Women are five to eight times more likely than men to develop thyroid disorders
  • Hypothyroidism in pregnancy occurs in three to five out of every 1000 pregnancies
  • Graves' disease is common in people younger than 40 years of age
Thyroid diseases are of several types. Thus, two people with a thyroid disease may suffer from exactly opposite symptoms. Women are more frequently affected, though men are not spared. Some of the diseases affecting the thyroid gland are:

Hypothyroidism is a condition where the patient suffers from low thyroid hormone levels. Deficiency of iodine, which is required for the production of thyroid hormone may be responsible. In contrast, too much iodine can also cause hypothyroidism. The patient becomes lethargic and gains weight. Other symptoms include constipation, depression, hair loss, dryness of skin, puffiness of face and hoarseness of voice. Hypothyroidism is treated using tablets containing thyroid hormone or thyroxine.
  • Hashimoto's thyroiditis is an inflammation of the thyroid gland where the patient suffers from hypothyroidism due to an immune reaction against the thyroid gland. It is more common as a cause of hypothyroidism in the United States as compared to iodine deficiency.
Hyperthyroidism is a condition opposite of hypothyroidism. Thyroid hormone levels are high as a result of which the patient's metabolism increases. The patient may suffer from weight loss, tremors, insomnia and palpitations.
  • Graves' Disease is a type of hyperthyroidism due to an immune reaction. It can affect the eyes resulting in bulging.
Thyroid Disease During and After Pregnancy: Hypothyroidism during pregnancy can cause stunted growth and mental retardation in the child. Therefore, it is important to detect and treat thyroid issues during pregnancy. Hyperthyroidism can also occur during pregnancy. In addition, a woman can suffer from postpartum thyroiditis following delivery, which usually causes high thyroid hormone levels followed by low levels.

Thyroid Nodules and Thyroid Cancer: The thyroid gland may develop single or multiple nodules. The nodules should be followed by observation and testing to rule out thyroid cancer. Exposure to large amounts of radiation can result in thyroid cancer. Papillary cancer, the most common type of thyroid cancer has a good prognosis or outcome.

Goiter is a condition where the thyroid gland is enlarged and appears as a swelling in front of the neck. It may occur due to hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. Iodine deficiency and Hashimoto's thyroiditis are common causes of goiter with hypothyroidism while Graves' disease causes goiter with hyperthyroidism.

Untreated thyroid diseases can result in serious complications like myxedema coma and thyroid storm in hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, respectively. Though not all thyroid diseases can be prevented, some precautions could reduce your chances of suffering from thyroid disease:
  • Hypothyroidism should be avoided by adequate intake of iodine through iodinated salt and seafood
  • Cigarette smoking should be avoided
  • Exposure to chemicals like polychlorinated biphenyls should be avoided
  • Exposure to radiation should be limited by avoiding unnecessary x-rays and scans to the neck region
  • Potassium iodide tablets are recommended for people exposed to nuclear disasters to prevent thyroid cancer
It is also important to diagnose thyroid disorders early and treat them before any complications take place.

References :
  2. Thyroid disease
  3. American Thyroid Association
  4. Pregnancy and Thyroid Disease
  5. Source: Medindia

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