International Thyroid Awareness Week May 25-31, 2015 (#ITAW2015)
We may excuse feeling tired or depressed, ongoing constipation, lack of concentration or unexplained weight gain as a consequence of stress or even getting older, and as a result, many people may endure the most common, but simply treated thyroid disorder called hypothyroidism – also known as an underactive thyroid gland. 4 5 6
Thyroid disorders can have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life. It’s important that people are aware of the signs and symptoms of thyroid disorder and seek help for the condition. 3
What are thyroid disorders?Thyroid disorders are conditions that affect the thyroid gland, which has the important role of regulating numerous metabolic processes throughout the body. Different types of thyroid disorders affect either the structure or function of the thyroid gland. There are two main functional disorders of the thyroid gland - hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. 7
What is the thyroid gland?The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped organ located in front of the windpipe that plays a key role in regulating many of the body’s functions.
The thyroid gland makes and releases thyroid hormones into the blood which regulate the body’s metabolism. 9 These hormones are essential for the proper functioning of all bodily tissues and organs. They enable the body to use its stores of energy efficiently to keep the body warm and ensure muscles work properly. 8
What is hypothyroidism?Hypothyroidism is an underactive thyroid gland that does not produce enough thyroid hormones to keep the body running normally. 8
What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism?Recognizing hypothyroidism is difficult due to seemingly insignificant symptoms that develop gradually and can be mistaken for other conditions, often resulting in delays in diagnosis. 3 6
Patients with hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) may present with non-specific physical and mental symptoms including: 4 9
- Fatigue / drowsiness
- Increased sensitivity to cold
- Muscle and joint pain
- Weight gain despite lifestyle control (sensible diet and exercise)
- Abnormal menstrual periods and / or fertility problems
- Thin and brittle hair or fingernails and / or dry flaky skin
- Puffy face, hands and feet
- Decreased libido
Who is at risk of hypothyroidism?Hypothyroidism is ten times more common in women than in men and there are certain times in a woman’s life that make her more vulnerable. 10
- It is estimated that about 5% of pregnant women develop hypothyroidism. 11
- Furthermore, 7% of new mothers who have not been previously diagnosed with hypothyroidism can develop problems with their thyroid within the first year after having their baby. 12
- Menopausal women who suffer from symptoms, including fatigue, depression, abnormal menstrual periods and sleep disturbances, may have undiagnosed hypothyroidism. 13
There are a number of different causes of hypothyroidism 8, including:
- Family history of thyroid problems
- Autoimmune disease
- Surgical removal of part or all of the thyroid gland
- Radiation treatments
- A diet too low in iodine
If left untreated, hypothyroidism is associated with mild to severe health conditions including heart disease, depression and anxiety, infection, and increased risk of recurrent miscarriage and infertility. 4 6
If a mother has untreated thyroid disorder during pregnancy, it may affect her child’s mental and physical development, which in turn can impact their social and learning skills later in life. 6 14
How is hypothyroidism diagnosed and treated?Early detection and treatment of hypothyroidism will help to reduce the risk of disease progression and the potentially serious or life-threatening consequences. 4
Diagnosis of hypothyroidism is confirmed by a quick and simple blood test to measure the level of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) in the blood. 8 Once diagnosed, treatment of hypothyroidism is effective and the majority of patients can live normal lives thanks to medication. 8 Levothyroxine is the treatment of choice for the underproduction of thyroid hormones. 4
More informationTo access patient brochures on hypothyroidism and further information about thyroid disorders, patients can visit the International Thyroid Awareness Week Campaign website: www.thyroidweek.com.
- Canaris GJ, Manowitz NR, Mayor G et al. The Colorado thyroid disease prevalence study. Arch Intern Med. 2000;160:526-34.
- Khan A, Muzaffar M, Khan A et al. Thyroid Disorders, Etiology and Prevalence. J Med Sci. 2002;2:89-94
- Watts T, et al. Confirmatory factor analysis of the thyroid-related quality of life questionnaire ThyPRO. Health Qual Life Outcomes, 2014; 12:126.
- Medline Plus. 2014. Hypothyroidism.
- American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. 2002. American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists Medical Guidelines for Clinical Practice for the Evaluation and Treatment of Hyperthyroidism and Hypothyroidism.
- Garber JR, et al. 2012. Clinical Practice Guidelines for Hypothyroidism in Adults: Cosponsored by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and the American Thyroid Association.
- British Thyroid Foundation. Your Thyroid Gland.
- The American Thyroid Association. 2012. Hypothyroidism.
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. 2002. ACOG Education Pamphlet AP128 - Thyroid disorder.
- British Thyroid Association. 2006. UK Guidelines for the Use of Thyroid Function Tests.
- National Women’s Health Resource Center. 2006. Thyroid Disorder and Women.
- The Endocrine Society. Management of Thyroid Disorder During Pregnancy and Postpartum: an Endocrine Society Clinical Practice Guideline. J Clin Endocrinol Metab, 97: 2543–2565, 2012.
- American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. 2013. Thyroid Hormone Missing from Menopause Discussion for Millions of Women.
- The American Thyroid Association. Guidelines of the American Thyroid Association for the Diagnosis and Management of Thyroid Disease During Pregnancy and Postpartum. Thyroid, 2011; 21(10):1081-1125.