The butterfly-shaped thyroid gland located at the base of the neck plays a major role in the metabolism, growth and development of the body. It also regulates multiple functions, including energy levels, weight, heart rate and mood. Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones to meet the needs of the body.
Despite the high prevalence, thyroid disorders, along with other non-communicable diseases, remain neglected. A study conducted across eight cities in India suggests that nearly one-third of people living with hypothyroidism experience the disorder but are unaware of it due to a lack of diagnosis.
Highlighting the need for timely diagnosis of thyroid-related conditions, Manoj Chadha, Senior Consultant Endocrinologist, HOPE & CARE Hospital, Vashi, Navi Mumbai said, "In Mumbai alone, we have seen 2.86 per cent cases of hypothyroidism go undiagnosed. Adults who are aged 35 years and above, pregnant, and middle-aged women in particular, are at high risk and may suffer additional complications if a thyroid disorder is left untreated. Undetected hypothyroidism results in increased vulnerability to comorbidities such as diabetes and hypertension."
He continued, "The pathophysiological association between Type2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) and thyroid dysfunction is believed to be the result of an interplay between various biochemical, genetic, and hormonal malfunctions. Poorly managed T2DM can lead to insulin resistance, hyperinsulinemia and increased risk of hypoglycaemic episodes in diabetics.11 As a result, it increases the cardiovascular risk in T2DM. This can only be reduced with frequent screening to ensure timely diagnosis, which in turn will drive treatment and disease management for hypothyroidism at an early stage."
Here are 4 reasons why women should be aware of thyroid disorders:
* Women are three times more likely to develop hypothyroidism than men: Moreover, hypothyroidism is especially common among women especially during child-bearing age (although women of all ages are at risk). Women with high-risk factors for hypothyroidism should particularly be encouraged to undergo screening. These factors include: residing in an area with moderate-severe iodine insufficiency, obesity, history of thyroid dysfunction or presence of goitre in the individual or a first-degree relative, history of recurrent miscarriages or pre-term delivery, infertility, or autoimmune diseases (Type 1 diabetes, Addison's disease, Coeliac disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis).
* Elusive signs & symptoms -- Don't suffer silently: Women tend to ignore their health and visit a doctor only when extremely ill or experiencing severe symptoms. Hypothyroidism symptoms, which tend to be subtle and non-specific, go under the radar. These include fatigue, excessive weight gain, constipation, dry skin, cold intolerance, lethargy, muscle cramps and puffy eyelids, which overlap with those of other disease areas or blend in with the rigours of everyday life. It is thus essential to get yourself screened, instead of waiting for multiple symptoms to persist. Take action proactively to alleviate any symptoms and avoid further complications.
* The added risk of health complications: The potential consequences of thyroid disorders include more than just hair loss and weight fluctuations. If left untreated, thyroid disorders can prompt a number of health complications, from elevated cholesterol levels and depression to irregular menstrual cycles and a higher risk of infertility or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). Thyroid disorders can also amplify or worsen symptoms of menopause. In more serious cases, they may even lead to cardiovascular or neurological complications, as well as diabetes.
* Timely treatment to safeguard maternal and child health: Hypothyroidism can have worrying implications for pregnant women, if not adequately managed. Hypothyroidism during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of anaemia, miscarriage, postpartum bleeding, pre-eclampsia, and placental abruption.
The thyroid hormone is also critical for the development of the fetal brain and nervous system, especially during the first trimester when the foetus depends on the mother's supply of the hormone. Thyroid disorders may also increase the risk of pre-term birth and low birth weight. Being aware and undergoing screening before and during pregnancy is important for both maternal and child health.
Women with hypothyroidism detected during pregnancy can speak to their endocrinologist to understand how to best manage their condition.
Commenting on the need to tackle thyroid disorders, Srirupa Das, Medical Director, Abbott said, "Abbott is committed to raising awareness on thyroid disorders in India. By educating people at higher risk, especially women, about the nature, prevalence and symptoms of the condition, we aim to encourage increased screening, which facilitates timely diagnosis and treatment. We are committed to continuing 'Making India Thyroid Aware' to empower people to pursue better health."