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Times of India
01 November 2010
By Jayashree Nandi
Bangalore, India

Symptoms Are Subtle Incidence High Among Women In 20–40 Age Group
Why is thyroid on the rise? Doctors are a puzzled lot because the reasons are yet to be ascertained. According to general physician Dr Raman Rao, many gram panchayats are seeing a fourfold increase in hypothyroidism. Research is under way to find out why the numbers are going up.

Rise In Hypothyroidism Baffles Doctors
Strangely, it has increased more among women in the 20–40 age group. "For the past five to seven years, we have been seeing a fourfold increase in hypothyroidism. And it is more in women. A lot of work is on to find out why this is happening. It is an autoimmune disorder like diabetes and we don’t think it is due to lifestyle–related problems. In some cases, it is a genetic problem. It could be linked to more number of diabetes cases these days," Rao said.

In hypothyroidism, the basal metabolic rate (BMR) comes down and patients have swelling around the face, legs and other body parts making them look obese. Hypothyroidism occurs due to very low hormone production. Since the symptoms are subtle, it is best to get tests done as soon as you realize any changes like feeling excessive fatigue, weight gain, depression, swelling and others.

Strangely, some doctors are seeing an increase in hyperthyroidism too. It is a case where hormone production is higher and people lose a lot of weight. "We are still trying to find out why the incidence is going up. There are some indications that it could be because of lifestyle disorders, viral infections, environmental factors or even diet–related issues like preservatives in food. One of these must be disturbing the autoimmune mechanism," explains Dr Mohan Y Badgandi, HoD, department of diabetes and endocrinology, Manipal Hospital.

However, the ‘Grave Disease’ where the thyroid hormone is overactive is more common in Europe and US, and not in India. "For the past four to five years, we are trying to understand the changes in epidemiology and why the twin epidemic of diabetes and hypertension is going up. I think these studies will help us evaluate why the hyperthyroidism trend is increasing," he added.

Dr Narasimha Shetty, director of Karnataka Institute of Diabetology, also confirmed increase in the number of hypothyroidism cases. "We can’t say if it is because of more awareness among patients or if the cases have actually gone up. But it is for sure that a lot more patients are getting screened. The manifestations of hypothyroidism are difficult to track and similar symptoms could be there for other diseases as well."

Hypothyroidism is usually caused due to defect in the thyroid gland itself, or the pituitary gland or even the hypothalamus, but the causes largely are unknown.

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