Hypothyroidism is one of the most common ailments among women yet when it comes to diagnosis and treatment, the initiative is lacking
Ritika was suddenly gaining weight and started to feel very tired. After the initial talks of “is she pregnant” to the “you need to eat well and exercise too,” she decided to visit a doctor. She finally found an answer — hypothyroidism.
“Thyroid is an endocrine gland which produces the thyroid hormone. This thyroid hormone helps regulate the metabolism of the entire body. A deficiency of this hormone results in hypothyroidism,” says Dr J Anish Anand, internal medicine specialist, Apollo Hospital.
While inefficiency of the thyroid gland to produce the hormone is a primary reason. Another cause could be because of the inefficiency of the pituitary gland which stimulates the thyroid gland, says Dr Pramati Reddy, senior physician, Apollo Hospital.
“The most common symptom is extreme fatigue or tiredness as well as unexplained weight gain. The other symptoms include dry skin, difference in relation to temperature (extreme reaction to high and low temperature) and high cholesterol,” says Dr Anish. Dr Pramati mentions that slow metabolism and hair loss can also be symptoms.
In many cases there is no clear reason. Some of the other reasons include iodine deficiency, auto-immunity related problems and in some cases it may run in the family, mentions Dr Anand. He adds that hypothyroidism due to iodine deficiency s very rare nowadays. Dr Pramati says that family history of thyroid can also be a reason.
Dr Pramati says, “A thyroid profile is done to diagnose the problem. This is a simple blood test.” Dr Anish says, “It is important to first find out if the problem is clinical or sub-clinical. By sub-clinical one means that the thyroid is slightly elevated but the patient does not have any clear cut symptoms. In such a case, the patient may be asked to come back in a few weeks. In case the situation is clinical, that is the patient has clear symptoms, treatment is immediately started.”
According to Dr Pramati, medication includes supplementing the thyroid hormone in the form of a pill which has to be taken once a day. The thyroid levels need to stabilise hence tests are done to check the thyroid level every three months. Treatment for hypothyroidism is usually lifelong as they are chances of the levels fluctuating.
Many a times hypothyroidism goes undiagnosed. If not treated on time or if the patient stops taking medication all of a sudden then it may result in coma. It can thus become life threatening.”
Dr Pramati says that undiagnosed hypothyroidisms dangerous if a woman is pregnant as it may harm her unborn child. It may also be a cause for heart problems, diabetes, cholesterol.
Talking about other possible causes. Dr Anish says, “According to the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) damaged non-stick cook ware can also be a cause.”
When it comes to thyroid related ailments, hypothyroidism is more common than hyperthyroidism. Dr Anand mentions that it is more common in woman.” Dr Pramati says, “Any woman above the age of 20 is at the risk though it is more common for those in the third or forth quarter.” She adds that women nowadays are aware of the problem and ask for thyroid tests if they notice symptoms like menstrual irregularities or weight gain.