Keep your thyroid gland healthy with periodic screenings: Experts


Keep your thyroid gland healthy with periodic screenings: Experts

The high rates of endocrinological disorders in the UAE are set to increase further, as the young population ages, say experts.


Asma Ali Zain

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Published: Sat 12 Jan 2019, 9:22 PM

Last updated: Sat 12 Jan 2019, 11:29 PM

Hypothyroidism is a growing condition in the Middle East, particularly in infants. January is thyroid awareness month and endocrinologists are raising awareness of the condition. Thyroid issues often go undetected for long periods, as the symptoms can be vague.
The high rates of endocrinological disorders in the UAE are set to increase further, as the young population ages, say experts.
"A damaged or sluggish thyroid gland is a disorder of the endocrine system, causing insufficient levels of thyroid hormone to be produced," said Dr Moayed Alhelfi, consultant endocrinologist at the University Hospital Sharjah (UHS).
Hypothyroidism currently affects two per cent of babies. The condition can also develop in later childhood or adolescence, with the chance of contracting the disorder being 10 times greater in females.
A recently published five-year medical report showing five per cent of the UAE having this condition, with an increasing number of women according to research and statistics. Children with family histories of autoimmune disease, Down syndrome, Turner syndrome, type 1 diabetes or celiac disease are also at a higher risk of developing the condition.
"Some of the most common symptoms that one may experience during hypothyroidism include tiredness, constipation, feeling cold and dry skin and hair.
Hypothyroidism not only slows-down juvenile growth but can also lead to an onset delay in puberty," said the doctor. "For adolescent girls, the condition may also manifest through irregularity in menstrual cycles. The interference of natural growth during childhood and abnormal fatigue can have severe repercussions academically in school," said Dr Moayed.
Students with hypothyroidism can feel inadequate, drained and depressed, as hormones can substantially affect mood.
In cases of severe, long-standing hypothyroidism, the child may have an underdeveloped nasal bridge and disproportionate body habitus; an unbalanced development of physique and body-proportions, noted Dr Moayed.
"Although hypothyroidism is increasing in children, we've observed a growing number of women over 45 also suffering from the condition. In addition to an increased likelihood of developing an underactive thyroid from various genetic disorders in the family, there is clearly an aspect of hypothyroidism having a hereditary influence on a patient's likelihood in developing the disorder too," added Dr Moayed.
Second only to diabetes, hypothyroidism is one of the largest endocrinological disorders, which include osteoporosis, thyroid cancer, adrenal gland underactivity (Addison's disease), adrenal gland hyperactivity (Cushing's Syndrome) and Prolactinoma, are all other growing endocrinological conditions.
"Living with an endocrinological condition may seem difficult, however, regular screening and monitoring is the key to long-term management," concluded Dr Moayed.
There are different treatment options available for endocrinological disorders.
Underactive thyroids are effectively treated with thyroxine replacement medication. Surgery and Radioactive Iodine (RAI) therapy are some of the cutting-edge techniques introduced recently to treat endocrine conditions.
In Dubai Hospital, thyroid is the second most common condition after diabetes for outpatients.
Dr Fatheya Al Awadi, consultant endocrinologist and head of endocrine department at the Dubai Hospital, said that due the high number of patients with the condition, the hospital set-up a weekly thyroid clinic two years ago.
"The thyroid is a very small gland in the base of the neck. The gland produces the hormones T4 (levothyroxine) and T3 (liothyronine) that regulate the body's metabolic rate as well as heart and digestive function, muscle control, brain development, mood, and bone maintenance. In general, if you are having any of the above symptoms get yourself tested," said Dr Al Awadhi."This is a general guideline - those with symptoms or a family history must undergo screening earlier and may need frequent repeat tests as per the doctor's instructions."

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