A study finds that 1 in 1,700 newborns has a disorder of the gland that is crucial in the early development of the brain

It is not just pregnant women but newborns too who are at risk of thyroid disorders. Early screening can help save plenty of trouble, say doctors.

In fact, many countries like the U.S. and U.K. have a universal screening programme for thyroid disorders in newborns. In India, this is not yet policy.

A population-based study in Chennai has found that 1 in 1,700 newborns has a thyroid disorder, says Jayashree Gopal, senior consultant, endocrinologist and diabetologist, Apollo Hospitals, Chennai.

In babies, the thyroid gland is crucial in the development of the brain during the first three years.

“The earlier the disorder is picked up, the better. Iodine deficiency used to be one of the causes but now we are seeing that it is also due to abnormal gland development or problems in the production of the thyroid hormone. During pregnancy, the iodine requirement for women is much higher,” she says.

Newborns with thyroid disorders are put under medication for three to four years. When they complete four years, the doctor should decide whether to continue the medication or have a trial without tablets. “Treating early can help the children lead normal lives,” she adds.

Doctors say that there is increased awareness among physicians and patients on testing for thyroid disorders. Easy availability of a blood test for the disorders is an advantage.

Cancers of the thyroid gland is another area of concern. While early diagnosis is crucial, Anshu Rajnish Sharma, president elect, Society of Nuclear Medicine, India, stresses the need for high-dose radioactive iodine isolation wards for treatment of thyroid cancer.

“In India, very few centres have such a facility. Radioactive iodine treatment is vital in preventing recurrence of cancer after surgery,” he adds.

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Peak summer is just coming to an end, but even as residents hope for temperatures to dip, doctors are worried about a constant problem this time of the year — blood donations taking a hit.

With World Blood Donor Day falling on June 14, doctors say it is important to encourage more members of the public, corporates, and even senior citizens to donate blood.

“Even though Tamil Nadu is far better placed than many other States in terms of voluntary blood donations, there’s always a dip in summer. This problem is compounded by the fact that many people opt for elective surgeries during the summer because of the holidays. And so, demand peaks just when blood donations are at their lowest,” said K. Selvarajan, former professor of transfusion medicine, Madras Medical College.

According to Dr. Selvarajan, in 2012, Tamil Nadu reached the WHO criterion of collecting units amounting to one per cent of its population in order to be self-sufficient, with around 7,25,000 units collected.

“But close to 80 per cent of these donations come from students. In summer, when students are on vacation, donations take a hit. This is why it is important to encourage corporates and other professionals to donate during the summer,” he said.

Also, with the age bar for donation being raised from 60 to 65, more seniors could come forward, he said.

For some youngsters like K. Gokulakrishnan, donating blood is part of their routine.

After he donated once in college, the 23-year-old has been donating every three to six months, he said.

“I also donate every time there is an urgent need for blood at a hospital. A friend of mine has a WhatsApp group of potential donors and he lets me know any time blood is needed,” he said.

(Reporting by Serena Josephine M. and Zubeda Hamid)

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