THYROID DISORDERS IN WOMEN
Women are natural born, genetically engineered care givers. Looking out for the general well-being and overall health of a family remains top priority. But sadly when it comes to her own health, she places herself at the bottom of the list. Unless the situation warrants a Doctor’s visit, women usually self-medicate and are content. This way we ignore all possible signs and symptoms of any disease till it develops to a later stage.
Here I am zeroing in on one of the most common disorder affecting women namely Thyroid malfunction. Thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland in the base of the neck and the hormones produced by it is in turn controlled by the pituitary gland in the brain. Simply put, the hormones produced by the Thyroid Gland influences almost all the metabolic functions of the body like the rate of the heart beat and how fast you burn your calories.
- Hypothyroidism – Insufficient production of thyroid hormones leads to hypothyroidism. Symptoms – weight gain, increased sensitivity to cold, muscle weakness, pain in joints, depression, fatigue and excessive menstrual bleeding. In extreme cases, high level of LDL or bad cholesterol increases the risk of Heart disease. Treatment – Hypothyroidism is often treated with man-made thyroid hormones like T3 and T4. Most patients need to be on the pills for the rest of their lives.
- Hyperthyroidism – Excessive production of thyroid hormones leads to hyperthyroidism. The most common cause is Graves ’ disease, an autoimmune disorder in which the body’s own defense or immune system stimulates the excessive production of Thyroid hormones. Symptoms – weight loss, irregular and rapid heartbeat, anxiety, increase sensitivity to heat, muscle weakness, insomnia and lighter menstrual flow. People with hyperthyroidism are prone to Osteoporosis. Treatment – Anti thyroid medicines block the thyroid’s ability to produce new hormones. Only in extreme cases surgery is done to remove the thyroid gland.
- Goiter – A goiter is an abnormally enlarged gland. The only symptom of Goiter is swelling in the neck. The treatment depends on the cause of Goiter. If the patient is not getting enough of Iodine, an Iodine supplement is the easiest cure. Surgery is considered in rare cases to remove part or the entire thyroid gland.
- Thyroid cancer – is the most uncommon of all cancers and least deadly. The main symptom is a lump or swelling in the neck. Only 5% is found to be cancerous. Treatment – a radioactive Iodine therapy is done in most cases.
- Thyroid during pregnancy – both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism makes it difficult for a person to conceive. Pregnant women suffering from thyroid disorders develop early labor, anemia, and problems with brain development of the baby and in extreme cases still born and abnormal bleeding after birth. The best way is to have thyroid function test done in the early stages of pregnancy to avoid unnecessary complications.
Thyroid disorders are usually hereditary and a simple blood test makes it easy to diagnose and even more easy to manage. All it takes is a quarterly visit to a doctor and follow up on the medicines as they are usually for a life time. Hopefully the new generations of women are more health conscious and make a better effort in maintain their health.