World Thyroid Day: Causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of the disease

World Thyroid Day is celebrated on 25 May every year to raise awareness and reduce the prevalence of thyroid related disorders.

The thyroid gland is a small butterfly-shaped gland that lies in the middle of the lower part neck. The primary function of this gland is to control the body's metabolic rate. In order to do so, the gland produces T4 (Thyroxine) and T3 (Triiodothyronine) hormones which instruct the cells in the body to use energy.

A properly functioning thyroid gland helps to maintain the appropriate amount of these hormones in the body. It ensures that the body’s metabolism functions at a satisfactory rate.

Various disorders may occur if the gland produces too much or too less of the thyroid hormones.

(Also read: Myths about thyroid disorders, debunked: Seek proper treatment for your condition)

Representational Image.

Representational Image.

Causes of Thyroid disorders

A thyroid disorder may be caused due to several factors such as deficiency of iodine, inflammation of the thyroid gland, cancerous tumours, radiation therapy, thyroid surgery, genetic predisposition, autoimmune diseases such as Graves' disease or Hashimoto's disease.

(Also read: You got tested for a thyroid condition: Now here are a few dos and don'ts to keep in mind)

Common Symptoms of Thyroid Disorders

Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid gland)
• Agitation
• Reduced menstrual flow
• Sweating
• Increase appetite, etc.

Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland)
• Weight gain
• Fatigue
• Depression
• Heavy or scanty menstrual flow, etc.

Thyroid gland and hormones. Image: Author provided

Thyroid gland and hormones. Image: Author provided

Prevalence of Thyroid disorders In India

Thyroid diseases produce a significant burden in India and across the world. As per a clinical survey conducted, it has been estimated that around 32 per cent of people suffer from various thyroid related disorders in India such as hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism thyroid nodules, goitre, thyroid cancer and thyroiditis.

North India carries the maximum cases of hypothyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid gland is unable to produce a sufficient amount of hormones to keep the body running. In an analysis based on the data collected from 33 lakh adults pan-India, revealed that one out of every eight young women has a thyroid dysfunction, where the mild elevation of TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) was the most commonly noted abnormality.

Another common thyroid related disorder which is most prevalent in India is goitre. At present, goitre, an iodine deficiency disorder, puts around 200 million people in India at risk. The deficiency of iodine can cause hypothyroidism and mental retardation in children.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Thyroid disorders

If the doctor suspects an underlying thyroid disorder, he/she may recommend the patient to undergo various diagnostic tests. These tests comprise of simple blood tests that are used to determine the levels of thyroid hormones namely T3, T4 and TSH in the body. Levels of calcitonin may also be evaluated to diagnose thyroid cancer.

The doctor may prescribe medication or hormone replacement therapy for the treatment of thyroid related disorders. Other available treatment options include radioactive iodine treatment and alternative medicine such as homoeopathy, naturopathy etc. In severe cases, surgery may also be required.

The patients may also be asked to alter their lifestyle and consume a diet rich in protein, calcium, iodine, magnesium and vitamins.

Taking a conscious step

Thyroid disorders are widespread around the world. In order to raise awareness and reduce the prevalence of thyroid related disorders, World Thyroid Day (WTD) is celebrated on 25 May every year. The focus of WTD this year is on helping children who are at risk of developing thyroid diseases which may be attributed to iodine deficiency or pediatric cancer.

Iodine deficiency is one of the major causes of thyroid related disorders in India as well as other parts of the world. Active and collective efforts are a prerequisite for spreading awareness regarding the causes and management of this condition.

The author is a Senior consultant in the medical team at

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