Thyroid diseases on the rise in India

Any irregularity with the thyroid can lead to various health problems in the longer run
Last Updated : 31 May 2022, 17:04 IST
Last Updated : 31 May 2022, 17:04 IST

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Thyroid diseases are one of the most common endocrine disorders across the world. In India too there is a significant burden of thyroid diseases. According to various researches, 42 million people have thyroid disorders consisting of the 4 main thyroid diseases: hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, goiter/iodine deficiency disorders and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Thyroid glands are responsible for making hormones that control the metabolism.

Any irregularity with the thyroid can lead to various health problems in the longer run. Thyroid disease arises when the thyroid gland produces either too much or too little of these important hormones.

Common disorders

Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) is a condition in which the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone. In our country, hypothyroidism is the most common thyroid disorder affecting 1 in every 10 men & women. During the initial stage, it may not cause noticeable symptoms. If left untreated, it is associated with various health problems, such as obesity, joint pain, infertility and heart disease. Congenital hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland fails to develop or function properly.

The disease occurs in 1 out of 2640 neonates when compared with the worldwide average value of 1 in 3800 subjects.

Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) is the opposite of Hypothyroidism. It occurs when the thyroid gland produces excessive hormone thyroxine.

The excess hormones can accelerate the body’s metabolism, causing unintentional weight loss and a rapid or irregular heartbeat. It is estimated that hypothyroidism affects up to 5% of the general population, with a further estimated 5% being undiagnosed. Over 99% of affected patients suffer from primary hypothyroidism.

Goiter is the irregular growth of the thyroid gland due to iodine deficiency or inflammation of the thyroid gland. It is one of the most common thyroid disorders in India affecting more than 1 million cases per year.

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease. The immune system attacks the thyroid which can lead to hypothyroidism. Without proper treatment, the condition can cause serious and even life-threatening complications.

Cases rising

Environmental iodine deficiency is the most common cause of all thyroid disorders globally. In India, the number is on the rise owing to factors such as the rising awareness of the disease, which means more patients with this condition are being diagnosed, and autoimmunity (common cause of thyroid triggered by stress). It tends to impact women between the ages of 18-35 during their prime reproductive period and this is also the time they tend to suffer the most stress.

Treatment plan

The key to thyroid treatment is to help maintain the thyroid hormone at normal levels in the body. Anti-thyroid drugs, thyroid replacement medication and surgery are some of the treatment options. However, there are a variety of ways and specific treatments available depending on the cause of your thyroid condition.

Healthy thyroid

It is recommended to consume more anti-oxidants and nuts. Since thyroid is vulnerable to oxidative stress, it is important to increase the intake of anti-oxidants. Include fruits like strawberries, raspberries and colourful vegetables in your diet plan. It is good to include nuts as well because they have a high selenium content which is an important component of the thyroid. Selenium is essential for thyroid hormone metabolism.

Exercise and try to stay lean and fit. Exercise has a whole host of benefits that impact not only your overall health, but can help reduce thyroid symptoms like mood problems, trouble sleeping, and weight gain.

Adequate iodine intake is important to ensure healthy functioning of the thyroid gland and is an essential substance to maintain thyroid health. Consuming an adequate amount of iodine may help reverse the effects of slow metabolism, as it can help the body produce adequate thyroid hormones.

(The writer is consultant - Endocrinology at a Bengaluru-based hospital)

Published 31 May 2022, 16:58 IST

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