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Early diagnosis helps thyroid treatment

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Afshan Yasmen

January is Think Thyroid month to underscore regular monitoring

Bangalore: Most newborns have physiological jaundice that disappears in three or four days. However, Shailaja’s daughter continued to be yellow even after two weeks. The doctors at St. John’s Hospital here diagnosed it as congenital hypothyroidism and suggested the baby be put on thyroid hormone replacement therapy, but the baby’s grandparents did not agree for it.

However, three months later, the parents brought her back saying everything was not all right with her. This time she was put on the therapy. “Although she is gradually showing signs of improvement, the condition could have been treated better if the parents had agreed for the therapy within two weeks,” said Ganapathy Bantwal, Professor and Head of the Department of Endocrinology at St John’s.

Pointing out that thyroid was a reversible cause for mental disability, Dr. Bantwal recommended that all newborns be screened for thyroid 72 hours after birth. “If the physiological jaundice in a baby prolongs beyond the usual three or four days, it is an indication of thyroid. Also if a child is gaining weight and not height, parents should think thyroid,” he told The Hindu.

With January being observed as Think Thyroid Month, city endocrinologists said there was a need to create more awareness about the condition. Thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland in front of the neck just below the Adam’s apple which produces vital hormones that are carried by the bloodstream to every cell in the body. It is within these cells that the hormones control the metabolism — the rate at which the body produces energy from nutrients.

Mala Dharmalingam, Professor of Endocrinology at M.S. Ramaiah Hospital, said early diagnosis, correct follow up and regular monitoring of the condition would ensure the person remained healthy.

“The heart, brain, liver, kidneys and skin all need the right amount of thyroid hormone to work effectively. Problems arise when this gland does not function properly and begins to produce either too little or too much of thyroid hormones,” said Dr. Dharmalingam, who is also the Director of Bangalore Endocrine Diabetic Research Centre. Pointing out that growth and development of a person can be influenced by an overactive or underactive (hypo) thyroid gland, she said: “It is important that parents be on the alert for thyroid problems in children. It is advisable that a child gets tested once in three months and an adult once in six months for hypothyroid.”

Dr. Dharmalingam said all pregnant women should be screened.

The Indian Thyroid Society (ITS) had identified thyroid-related disorders as the “next diabetes” and had declared January as Think Thyroid month to create awareness.

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