Thyroid disorders are on the rise and recent research has linked chemicals found in non-stick cookware, carpeting, and paints to an increase in thyroid disease.

According to Associate Professor of Endocrinology in Andhra Medical College here A. Mythili, diseases of the thyroid are the most common endocrine diseases world-wide and affect tens of millions of people. Over 4.2 crore Indians suffer from thyroid related disorders, and it is thus been identified as the ‘next diabetes'.

Talking to The Hindu on the eve of World Thyroid Day observed on May 25, she said the day aimed to promote awareness and understanding of thyroid health and the advances made in treating thyroid diseases, and committed to educating physicians, patients and the public about the importance of thyroid health so that they can identify and treat thyroid diseases. “Two types of these chemicals, perflurooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulphonate (PFOS), are prevalent in the environment and recently, it has been shown in a US population study that people with higher levels of these chemicals in the circulation had more thyroid disease. The thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland located in the middle of the lower neck, produces hormones that influence virtually every cell, tissue and organ in the body. Thyroid regulates the body's metabolism -- the rate at which the body produces energy from nutrients and oxygen -- and affects critical body functions, such as energy level and heart rate. Thyroid hormone is essential for the baby's normal brain development, growth in children and reproduction in adults. Hypothyroidism is so common during pregnancy, that women at high-risk for thyroid disease should be screened on becoming pregnant,” she explained.

Hypothyroidism, an under-active thyroid, is a condition where the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone. This is one of the most common forms of thyroid disease. Symptoms may include fatigue, depression, forgetfulness, irregular menses and weight gain. Treatment for hypothyroidism is usually a synthetic form of thyroid hormone called levothyroxine.

Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism is a condition causing the gland to produce too much thyroid hormone. Symptoms may include irritability, nervousness, muscle weakness, unexplained weight loss, sleep disturbances, vision problem and eye irritation. This is treated with drugs to decrease the hormone production. Swelling of the thyroid gland (goitre) or nodules in the thyroid gland are often benign, rarely malignant.

“People are often frightened when they know they have a thyroid dysfunction. Such fear is unnecessary because the treatment of the common thyroid disorders is simple and highly gratifying. Early diagnosis and proper treatment improves the quality of life of the patients. Doctors need to communicate with their patients about thyroid risks, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment. If your thyroid doesn't work properly, neither do you,” Dr. Mythili said.

Thyroid screening camps are now taking place in major cities in the country. A family history of thyroid disease often calls for screening the family members.

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