Thyroid Tough to Diagnose Due to Non-Specific Symptoms
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24 May 2010
By Neharika Sabharwal
Thyroid disease is considered the most common endocrine disease that affects millions of people worldwide. Though not known to be a fatal, it can hamper the quality of life of an individual.In spite of the attention the disease has received from researchers and the development of more precise diagnostic tests, thyroid is not easy to identify because a lack of awareness about the condition.
An estimated 4.2 crore people in India are afflicted with the disorder.
Dr RV Jayakumar, president, Indian Thyroid Society stated, “What is even more alarming is that almost 90% of the people suffering from thyroid disorders have not been diagnosed.”
“Countrywide studies have shown that only 10–12% of the total number of people suffering from thyroid disorders is currently under medication.”
Causes of Thyroid
Thyroid, a butterfly–shaped gland located in the neck, produces hormones [chemical substances created by the body that control numerous body functions.] that influence virtually every cell, tissue and organ in the body.
The gland regulates the metabolism of the body. Metabolism is the rate at which it generates energy from nutrients and oxygen and effects the vital body functions, such as energy level and heart rate.
There are two main functional disorders of the gland, hypothyroidism (due to a poorly functioning thyroid gland) and hyperthyroidism (caused by an overactive thyroid gland).
The former occurs because of primary damage to the thyroid gland by antibodies, or because of certain drugs. Hypothyroidism is more common in females.
On the other hand, hyperthyroidism is due to stimulating antibodies, or rarely due to pregnancy, drugs and ovarian tumors. Cigarette smoking can make the condition worse.
No specific symptoms
According to endocrinologists, thyroid disorders are not easy to detect as the symptoms are vague. The clinical signs can mimic other diseases.
Weight gain, lethargy, mental dullness, skin abnormalities, weakness, and a decrease in tolerance for exercise are the common complaints.
Thyroid disorders may have non–specific or mild symptoms in early stages and can be easily missed, leading to a delayed diagnosis.
“There are no definite symptoms. Most people seek advice when they notice a swelling in the neck,” said Dr HB Chandalia, senior consultant endocrinologist, Jaslok and Breach Candy hospitals.
Treatment for thyroid involves replacing the thyroid hormones, which the gland normally makes.
Patients have to take medication for the rest of their lives as there is no cure for the condition.