“Unmasking your Thyroid”: International Thyroid Awareness Week 2017 culminating activity discusses the risk of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
Facts and Myths About Thyroid Disorders
International Thyroid Awareness Week 2017 (ITAW2017) held in Manila last May 27, 2017 in partnership with Philippine Thyroid Association, Inc., Merck, Healthway Medical, and Robinsons Novaliches gathers the public to a free thyroid screening, doctor’s consultation, open discussion with health specialists, and family activities — massage, eyebrow threading, nail art, hair and make-up, kid’s art corner, raffles, and photo booth. Apart from perks, the highlight of the medical event is the information dissemination about the risks of thyroid disorders. Moreover, the differences in terms of manifestations, signs and symptoms of nodules, goiter, hypothyroidism, and hyperthyroidism.
“What is a goiter?”
Goiter is abnormal swelling of the neck resulting from enlargement of the thyroid gland. It can be due to iodine deficiency, or disorders such as hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. Thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped (shield-shaped cartilage) surrounding the neck area below the Adam’s apple. Thyroid gland is the master of metabolism; this ductless gland secretes hormones regulating growth and development through the rate of metabolism.
It’s important to properly diagnose the root cause of your illness. In pregnancy, thyroid disorders correlate the level of iodine to IQ of children. Thyroid disorders lower the children’s IQ by 13.5%. Thyroid disorders are acquired but not directly through genetics.
Top 10 Facts of Thyroid Disorders
Dr. Teofilo San Luis (National Coordinator of the Philippines, Iodine Global Network; former Dean at St. Luke’s) covers the topic: “The Thyroid Masquerade: Thyroid Manifesting in Ways Confusing to Patients (& Physicians) and facts about thyroid disorders.
- Up to 300 million people worldwide experience problems with their thyroid although over half are presumed to be unaware of their condition.
- The thyroid gland is a small organ with a huge impact. The gland makes, stores, and releases thyroid hormones into the blood, thus regulating metabolism. These hormones are essential for the proper functioning of all bodily tissues and organs.
- There are two functional disorders of the thyroid:
hypothyroidism – underactive thyroid
hyperthyroidism – overactive thyroid
- Symptoms of thyroid disorders vary from person to person, but can commonly be mistaken for being caused by other conditions like pregnancy, menopause or depression.
- Patients with hypothyroidism often experience:
a. Fatigue, drowsiness and/or weakness,
b. Cold tolerance, impaired memory, depression,
c. Weight gain or increased difficulty losing weight despite sensible diet and exercise,
d. Constipation, abnormal menstrual periods and/or fertility problems
e. Joint or muscle pain and thin/brittle hair or fingernails and/or dry flaky skin.
- Long-term complications of hypothyroidism can be serious and include:
a. Heart rate so slow that it can cause patients to slip into a coma,
b. Higher diastolic blood pressure,
c. Elevated cholesterol levels (significant risk factors for arteriosclerosis and heart disease),
d. Infertility and Alzheimer’s disease (increase risk for females).
- Patients with hyperthyroidism may experience:
a. Weight loss even when eating normally, weakness
b. Anxiety and irritability, sweating more than usual,
c. Very fast heart rate (>100 beats per minute)
d. Prominent staring eyes,
e. Hair loss, fast growing fingernails, thin and very smooth skin,
f. Trembling hands, frequent bowel movements,
g. Abnormal menstrual period.
- Untreated hyperthyroidism may lead to:
a. Cardiac arrhythmia to heart attacks,
b. Increase in the risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures for postmenopausal women,
c. Miscarriage, premature labor and delivery,
d. Poor growth of the baby in the womb
e. Thyroid storm
- Despite the symptoms of thyroid dysfunction being so varied and sometimes misleading, the condition can easily be diagnosed by:
a. Simple blood test to check the level of thyroid hormone (T4, T3, TSH),
b. Physical examination is performed to look for typical signs to support the correct diagnosis.
How do you self-check for goiter/thyroid nodules/ thyroid cancer?
Step 1: Face a mirror and check the area below your Adam’s apple.
Step 2: Lean your head back while focusing on the area where the thyroid is.
Step 3: Take a sip of water and swallow.
Step 4: While swallowing, observe a bulging/swelling occurs in the area of the neck where the thyroid is situated.
Step 5: Do not confuse the movement of your Adam’s apple with your thyroid gland.
Step 6: Repeat the neck check several times if necessary.
Step 7: If there may be an abnormality, consult your physician.
10. Effective treatment for both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism is available
Facts and myths about thyroid disorders
5 Myths About Thyroid Disorders
Dr. Wesley LLauderes (President of the Philippine Society of Nuclear Medicine) shared a brief discussion about myths or misleading information about thyroid disorders and goiter.
1. Drinking cold beverages
Iced cold drinks doesn’t cause enlargement of thyroid
2. Take food rich in iodine to avoid goiter
Seafood is popular food rich in iodine however those with hyperthyroidism should limit taking iodine enriched food while those with hypothyroidism can have it to support the lack of thyroid glands.
3. Avoid cabbage, carrots, gabi, potatoes, etc.
Eating in moderation does not affect thyroid glands compared to indigenous people living in the community (mountain areas) whereas they tend to eat crops most of the time.
4. Goiter is cancerous
Nodules and enlargement of the thyroid glands is most common to occur in women; it is said to be non-cancerous while male with goiter is considered possible as cancer.
5. Shouting and screaming
Medical research concludes that frequent shouting has no direct effect but the stress due to shouting brings negative effects to thyroid glands.
International Thyroid Awareness Week 2017 (ITAW2017) is a call to action to give importance to thyroid health; to prevent and be part of the public health problem that affects millions of Filipinos, to those who are still unaware of the signs and symptoms of thyroid disorders. ITAW is an annual drive to encourage everyone to have a thyroid check-up regularly. “It’s not you… It’s your Thyroid” determines the cause of your illness, it can manifest in many ways. The thought of going to a health specialist based on the symptoms underlying your concern, whether it be cardiologist, gastroenterologist, neurologists, ophthalmologist, dermatologist, ENT, gynecologists, obstetrician, psychiatrist, general physicians and so on. Both the patient and physicians are confused about how to properly diagnose the disease. Remember, thyroid disorders do not automatically recognize through visuals like the enlargement of the neck, sometimes the neck area appears normal but an eye problem arises (bulging/staring eyes) occurs. It masquerades in different ways. When having staring eyes, patients consult an ophthalmologist where in fact the thyroid glands are also connected to the eye (based on the other symptoms of the patient). This is just one of the misconceptions concerning the diseases a patient has. Have your thyroid screened and consult with your doctor to find out if you have a thyroid disorder.
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