How about we begin the year by taking care of our health? January is Thyroid Awareness Month. The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland, located at the base of the neck. It is a tiny part of the endocrine system, yet with massive impact on our physiology and psychology. It’s responsible for releasing two vital hormones in the body such as thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), which regulate body's temperature, metabolism, and heart rate. A diseased thyroid would certainly impact one’s health; the conditions may vary from being as minimal as an enlarged thyroid gland, which is known as Goiter, to as serious as thyroid gland cancer. There are hundreds of possible indications of a dysfunctional gland with symptoms ranging from simply feeling fatigued to as dangerous as becoming infertile.
There are several thyroid diseases, but the most commons ones are hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, which can be subdivided into other categories depending on their characteristics. Hyperthyroidism occurs when the body produces thyroid hormones in excess amounts leading to many problems such as anxiety, muscle weakness, sudden weight loss, sleep disorders, and eye problems. In contrast, hypothyroidism occurs when the body produces less than the sufficient amount of hormones to function properly which may cause extreme fatigue, depression, and some weight gain.
Luckily, these thyroid diseases can be treated and, in fact, some of the thyroid problems can be prevented. Following a healthy diet such as the Mediterranean diet, quitting smoking, consuming less processed food, and taking supplements such as iodine may decrease the risk of having a thyroid disease – unless you have a genetic predisposition to the condition. In the latter case, treatment of thyroid diseases includes medication, radioactive iodine, or in severe cases surgeries to remove the thyroid which will then require life-long need for medications. To conclude, 60% of people with thyroid diseases are unaware of their condition. With the right amount of knowledge and awareness, we would be practicing preventive medicine and highlighting this major issue.
- May Younis
Public Health student