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Thyroid: Watch out, men

Dr Ganapathi B, Dec 28 2017, 0:43 IST

If you're a man dealing with sudden weight gain, forgetfulness, fatigue, hair loss, unexplained infertility, have your thyroid checked out to see where you stand.

Thyroid disease - be it hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism – although commonly seen in women, are frequently being diagnosed in men too.

Statistics reveal that women are eight times more at risk of developing a thyroid disorder, but the fact is that we cannot rule out the threat it poses to men. It is a myth that men do not suffer from Thyroid, and one that needs to be busted.

Your thyroid gland is shaped like a butterfly that sits low in the front of your neck, just below your Adam's apple. The thyroid gland makes and stores hormones that help regulate: metabolism, heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and the rate at which our food is converted into energy.

The hormones produced by the thyroid gland are essential for the proper functioning of virtually every cell in the body.

Although it is an easy-to-detect and less expensive to treat disease, symptoms go unnoticed especially by men which impacts their overall health and well-being. Typically, Indian men tend to brush off fatigue and hair loss as signs of stress, dry skin and lethargy are dismissed as not so important.

People who have a history of thyroid problems in their family would be at more risk to thyroid abnormalities.

Genetics play a role to detect the level of thyroid hormones. If men show such signs, it's time to check their thyroid levels.

Hypothyroidism – means a low thyroid function – is a common disorder where the thyroid gland releases inadequate amounts of thyroid hormones T3 and T4 into the body. Generally, thyroid diseases are seen in elderly men but there are exceptions to the norm.

A few symptoms like hair loss, decrease in muscular strength, even erectile dysfunction and decrease in sex drive are more frequently seen in men.

The thyroid/fertility connection in men: Hypothyroidism in men is linked to reduced sperm volume and motility. Hypothyroidism can also cause low libido and erection problems. Hyperthyroidism in men (Graves' disease) is linked to fertility issues too.

To diagnose hypothyroidism, your endocrinologist will check your thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and thyroid hormone levels with a blood test.

Thyroid requires care and an early diagnosis. Sub-clinical hypothyroidism is silent as a disease, in it, thyroid level falls below normal and is being increasingly diagnosed in the Indian population.

The corrective treatment usually involves thyroid hormone replacement. It is an effective treatment that can avoid complications.

Don't suffer in silence

Find a doctor who understands the nuances of thyroid, uses comprehensive testing and practices personalised medicine. Don't suffer in silence. Talk to your doctor about all of your symptoms, and don't be afraid to discuss what you are going through. Your symptoms are not all in your head.

Take the endocrinologist recommended tests. Take care of yourself. Eat a healthy diet, get proper sleep and make changes that will create a lifetime of good health. Consuming the recommended iodine amount as a part of a balanced diet of nutritious fruits and vegetables is a first step towards maintaining your thyroid health. Avoiding smoking and limiting your alcohol intake can have a positive effect.

Apart from this, follow a regular exercise system to maintain sound body functions and compliment your medication regime.
While testing is important, you can resort to a more natural approach (besides the medicinal dosage). The natural approach can support the thyroid gland and fertility.

Start with diet changes.

Foods such as cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and uncooked bhindi should not be consumed raw. Cooking destroys the goitrogens. Take soy products preferably in the night if you are on thyroid medications.

Studies have shown that frequent endogenous insulin spikes can damage the thyroid gland. Sugar spikes cause the adrenal glands to secrete excess cortisol which suppresses the pituitary function and that can affect the thyroid gland.

(The writer is consulting endocrinologist, St John's Medical College & Hospital, Bengaluru)

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