India’s hidden thyroid problem: 1 in 10 Indians suffer from thyroid problems
While all diseases are debilitating and cause a great deal of suffering, some have made quite a name for themselves while others have managed to stay under the radar. Thyroid disorders fall under the latter. Not quite as famous as saying cancer or COVID-19, thyroid problems can pose serious health problems to the sufferer.
One in ten Indians has thyroid problems according to a health expert. These problems range from hypothyroidism to hyperthyroidism and even thyroid cancer. The clincher is that over 60 percent of them go undiagnosed! A contributing factor is that symptoms for thyroid problems are often non-specific and can go undetected for years before finally revealing themselves. Therefore, on the occasion of Thyroid Awareness Month, let us take a look at this disease in a new light.
What is the thyroid gland?
The thyroid gland is a small butterfly-shaped organ at the base of the neck. It is responsible for producing hormones that are required for the smooth functioning of the body. Breathing, mood changes, heartbeat, and metabolism are some of the functions it is responsible for.
It becomes apparent now why a thyroid problem can cause several issues that are detrimental to a person’s health. This is why it is also very important that one goes for regular checkups, preferably at least once a year. Given that 90 to 95 percent of thyroid cases are chronic, it pays to be vigilant about the various changes occurring in one’s body and consult a doctor at the first sign of trouble.
The inherent obscurity afforded to the thyroid and its problems has produced many myths, some of which are downright baffling. Let us, then, address the top three thyroid disease myths.
- Myth: Hypothyroidism affects only middle-aged women
Fact: Wrong. Hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid can affect any person regardless of gender or age. It is absurd to draw a connection between a disorder and a selected group of people without evidence. In fact, congenital hypothyroidism can affect a child even before birth during intrauterine life. The bottom line is that hypothyroidism can affect anyone.
- Myth: Thyroid problems always lead to goiter
Fact: Nothing could be further from the truth than this statement. A whole book could probably be written about how such statements have become a part of thyroid disease myths! Most patients with a thyroid problem will never have to deal with goiter, thanks to the iodine fortification of salts. That being said, it is always a good idea to get tested if one shows any signs of hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. Remember, prevention is better than cure.
- Myth: A lump or nodule in the thyroid is a sign of cancer
Fact: While this has some truth to it, only 5 percent of nodules turn out to be malignant. That means 95 percent of all lumps or nodules are benign. However, like in all cases, exercise caution. A checkup is recommended as the doctor can then suggest further tests depending on his observations.
In case it turns out to be malignant, one should not panic. Thyroid cancer is very much curable with the right therapy and treatment.
Thyroid problems are very real and can affect just about anybody. The onus lies with us to stay informed and vigilant about any issues faced by our bodies. This Thyroid Awareness Month, let us resolve to spread the message about thyroid-related problems and debunk any thyroid disease myths that we come across for the good of the general public.