Thyroid Awareness Month, observed every January, serves as an important initiative to educate and inform about thyroid disease. From hypothyroidism to hyperthyroidism, increased awareness encourages early detection and proper management. The thyroid gland is an endocrine gland that can be easily seen and felt. It produces 2 hormones T4 and T3 which are important in regulating our daily activities and metabolism. Dysfunction of the thyroid gland can lead to problems like goiter, hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.
In an interaction with Zee News English, Dr Srinath P Shetty, Consultant Endocrinology, KMC Hospital, Mangalore shares how thyroid problems affect women’s health and some daily tips on nutrition, exercise and stress management to maintain a healthy thyroid.
Dr. Srinath says, “Goitre is a structural problem of the thyroid gland that leads to enlargement of the gland. Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are caused by decreased levels of thyroid hormones (T4 and T3) and increased levels of thyroid hormones (T4 and T3) respectively.”
Thyroid disease can present in many ways. According to Dr. Srinath, “Patients can have goitre, hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. Although thyroid disorders can affect both sexes, women tend to visit the doctor more often. The main reason is that women have more problems like menstrual problems, infertility problems. . . , PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) and pregnancy-related thyroid disturbances. It is more common in women than in men to have autoimmune thyroid problems.”
Among the many effects of the thyroid on women’s health are some of the ways Dr. Srinath shares:
Infertility: Hypothyroidism can delay childbearing and family life. Treatment with thyroxine can help these couples complete their families.
a) Hypothyroidism – Patients with mild hypothyroidism who are otherwise untreated require thyroxine supplementation during pregnancy. This is because in the early part of pregnancy the growing fetus (baby) is dependent on the mother’s thyroid hormones. Thyroid supplementation during pregnancy has shown better results.
b) Hyperthyroidism – It is not uncommon to see pregnant women with low TSH in the 1st 3 months of pregnancy. This is mainly due to the increase in HCG levels during pregnancy. This is usually self-resolving, but some patients may have underlying hyperthyroidism due to Graves’ disease—which requires proper diagnosis and treatment.
c) Goitre – Complications with goitre during pregnancy may occur due to increased demand or due to tumors; Which needs proper evaluation and management. Patients who require thyroid surgery are usually operated on in mid-pregnancy.
Menstrual irregularities: Hypothyroidism is known to cause irregular menstrual cycles, sometimes increase bleeding, and can lead to anemia (low hemoglobin). Recognition and treatment of hypothyroidism improves the condition. Sometimes women presenting with PCOS may have hypothyroidism as an underlying cause that needs to be recognized at the right time for better outcomes. Hyperthyroidism can lead to irregular cycles that improve with thyroid treatment.
Age: Joint: Undiagnosed hypothyroidism in young adults can lead to early menses (periods) and short stature.
Who is most affected by thyroid issues?
A mildly elevated TSH is usually seen in the elderly population. Not everyone needs thyroxine supplementation. Decisions should be made based on the underlying etiology and severity of hypothyroidism.
Tips for maintaining a healthy thyroid
– Thyroxine hormone production depends on adequate iodine intake. Use iodized salt to ensure proper iodine levels; Pink/Himalayan salt is deficient in iodine. Iodized salt prevents diseases like localized goiter and intellectual disability. Adequately iodized salt contains 15 ppm iodine.
– Avoid taking iron tablets immediately after thyroxine for optimal absorption.
– Cruciferous vegetables such as green leafy vegetables or broccoli may interfere with iodine absorption, but normal intake levels are generally safe.
– Regular exercise and weight management are very important, especially for obese individuals who have high thyroxine needs.