According to statistics, around five per cent of the population in the UAE have been diagnosed with thyroid disease. However, this number is debatable as thyroid symptoms go mostly unnoticed and mistaken for other conditions. This January, which is also Thyroid Awareness Month around the world, we hope to encourage people to get themselves tested to not be caught unawares of their thyroid hormone levels.
What is Thyroid and what does it do?
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of the neck just below the voice box and above the collarbones. Although relatively small, the thyroid gland plays a big role in our body. It influences the function of some of the most important organs, including the heart, brain, liver, kidneys and skin and also plays a role in the body’s metabolism.
What are the different types of Thyroid disorders?
Thyroid disorders fall into two broad groups of disorders depending on the functioning of the gland and growth of any nodules in the gland. If the gland produces thyroid hormones below the normal level, it is called underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism and if it produces too much thyroid hormone it is called an overactive thyroid or hyperthyroidism. Let’s take a look at the symptoms of both conditions.
People with very mild hypothyroidism may notice few or no symptoms and they are usually diagnosed through thyroid screening tests. Some of the symptoms are very generic, appear gradually, and mimic other normal changes of aging and the early effects are often mild, and aren’t concentrated in a single area of the body, which is why it’s easy to disregard them or attribute them to other conditions.
What are the symptoms of an under active thyroid or hypothyroidism?
- Slight weight gain or despite diet control and exercise, no weight loss happening
- Sensitivity to cold
- Dry and thick skin
- Coarse and thin hair or brittle nails
- Mild swelling of eyelids
In more severe cases, the heart may be affected. Other conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and constipation are also symptoms of hypothyroidism.
In women, hypothyroidism can result in irregular menstruation, infertility or miscarriage in early pregnancy and affects the baby during and after pregnancy too. It is also noteworthy that hypothyroidism is five to eight times more common in women than in men.
While there are plenty of food options for people with hypothyroidism, one should avoid all varieties of millets and highly processed foods like hot dogs, cakes, etc. You can however, opt for a diet based around vegetables, fruits, and lean meats, if you have an under active thyroid.
The most common cause of an overactive thyroid is Grave’s disease. Grave’s disease is an autoimmune disease that causes the body to produce an agent that stimulates the thyroid gland to produce more hormones.
What are the symptoms of hyperthyroidism?
- Irritability, trouble sleeping and tiredness
- Fast or irregular heart beats
- Shaky hands and sweaty palms
- Frequent bowel movements
- Weakness in some part of the body such as arms and thighs
Hyperthyroidism: Diet What foods can I take and what should I avoid?
People with hyperthyroidism are advised to follow a diet with low-iodine content, vegetables like broccoli, kale cauliflower, food rich in vitamins and minerals like iron, zinc, selenium calcium and vitamin D among others. It is advised to avoid foods like soy, caffeine, excess iodine, processed food and gluten if you have an overactive thyroid.
What is Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), how is it measured, and what should my target number be?
The only way to detect hypothyroidism is by getting a laboratory test done which involves taking a sample of blood. The test will check for levels of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone or TSH which is very effective in diagnosing hypothyroidism.
If the doctor sees any suspicious nodules in the gland, they may ask you to get an ultrasound scan to rule out cancer. Thyroid nodules are usually free of symptoms and in some cases even the thyroid laboratory tests will show normal levels of thyroid.
Understanding TSH Test Results
If your TSH falls between 0.4 to 4.0 milli-international units per liter your thyroid is normal. However, if the levels are abnormal, T3 and T4 hormones will also be checked. If the value is above the normal range, this indicates hypothyroidism as the thyroid is underactive and the pituitary gland releases more TSH to stimulate the thyroid. However, a value below the normal range means that the thyroid is overactive and the pituitary gland releases less TSH. This indicates hyperthyroidism.
However, if you experience any of the symptoms listed above, it is good practice to get tested to rule out thyroid disorders. Ensuring that the thyroid gland is healthy and functioning properly is vitally important to the body’s overall well-being and it pays to stay aware. To schedule an appointment at your nearest Aster Clinic to get tested, call 04-4400 500.
Dr. Fatemeh Aghanasiri
Aster Clinic, Arabian Ranches
For appointments & inquiries: https://asterclinic.ae/doctor/dr-fatemeh-aghanasiri/