Thyroid alert

Dr Kishore Kumar
Last Updated 16 July 2010, 10:48 IST

The thyroid hormone helps the body’s metabolic process.  Due to the lack of this hormone, a condition called hypothyroidism occurs. It can complicate the birthing process for pregnant women. But the good news is that it can be treated. For pregnant women, immediate diagnosis and treatment is recommended to protect themselves and the baby. It is believed that 10 per cent of women in India suffer from a small degree of thyroid hormone deficiency.

What are the signs?
* Fatigue
* Weakness
* Weight gain or difficulty with losing weight
* Coarse, dry hair
* Dry, rough pale skin
* Hair loss
* Intolerance towards colds/ cough
* Muscle cramps and frequent muscle aches
* Constipation
* Depression
* Abnormal menstrual cycle
* Decreased libido
* Difficulty in conceiving

The severity of the condition could vary from patient to patient. Some patients could have one of these symptoms as their main complaint, while another may not show any sign of that symptom but could be suffering from different symptoms. But in most cases, it is a combination of the listed symptoms. Some patients with hypothyroidism may have no symptoms at all, or the symptoms may be so subtle that they could go unnoticed. If you have noticed any of these signs in yourself, you need to discuss them with your GP and get a thorough diagnosis with an endocrinologist.

Potential dangers
In an attempt to compensate for the lack of the thyroid hormone in the body, the pituitary gland begins to produce a thyroid-stimulating-hormone (TSH). This causes the thyroid gland to enlarge and form goitre. If left untreated, hypothyroidism will continue to progress. In rare cases, complications can result in severe depression, heart failure or coma.

If a woman is pregnant and suffers from hypothyroidism, it could affect the baby’s brain development. That is one of the reasons why hypothyroidism is considered to be a ‘critical condition’ during pregnancy.

(Published 16 July 2010, 10:48 IST)

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