What is Thyroid Disease?

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BY: ALLISON BROWN

The Canadian Thyroid Association was founded in 1980 by Diana Meltzer Abramsky in Kingston, ON.  Her aim was to help others who were suffering from thyroid disease.  She herself suffered from thyroid disease. In 1991 she received the Order of Canada.  She passed away October 2000 but her vision lives on through the dedication of many volunteers.

According to the Thyroid Foundation of Canada’s information, about 200 million people worldwide suffer from some type of thyroid disease. 1 in 10 Canadians suffers from some type of thyroid disease.  50% of those with thyroid disease is undiagnosed. This disease is hereditary and shows up in family members. Thyroid disease is treatable, but left untreated would pose serious issues for other parts of the body. Untreated thyroid disease can lead to cardiac disease, lupus, reproductive difficulties, diabetes, arthritis and other diseases.  Early detection of thyroid disease can prevent the severity of the above-listed diseases.

The thyroid gland is located at the base of the neck.  It secretes hormones that are required for growth and metabolism and regulates body functions.  Women tend to suffer from thyroid disease more frequently than men.

There are many types of thyroid disease, however, I will focus on hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland) and hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid gland).

Those who suffer from hypothyroidism typically experience the following signs and symptoms:  slow weak heartbeat, muscular weakness and constant fatigue, depression, sensitivity to cold, thick puffy skin/or dry skin, poor memory, constipation, hair loss, and or goiter (enlarged thyroid).

Those who suffer from hyperthyroidism usually experience rapid heartbeat, tremors, muscular weakness, weight loss despite an increase in appetite, restlessness, anxiety and sleeplessness, profuse sweating and intolerance to heat, diarrhea, eye changes, and goiter. There may be symptoms of anxiety and irritability.  

People may not experience all symptoms or they may experience these symptoms in absence of the disease; so it is important to consult with your physician who may provide a referral to an endocrinologist. Treatment takes time to resolve issues and it is important for families to understand controlling of signs and symptoms takes time.

A blood test is usually done in the lab that will measure the amount of thyroid hormone in the blood, as well as thyroid antibodies. Newborn screening in Canada has been able to identify 1 in 4,000-5,000 births and therefore treatment is provided to prevent growth defects. During childhood, pregnancy, and as people age it is important to consider thyroid disease when going to medical check-ups.

Ultrasound, CT scans, MRIs, and biopsies are commonly used to diagnose and subsequently treat thyroid disease.  

It is also very important to be persistent and get a second opinion if you feel that your physician is not hearing you when you ask for tests. It is also critical that you do not stop taking medication without a physician’s approval.  At times the dose of medication that is prescribed must be titrated to your body and therefore experiencing the corrective effects of the medication will take time. Be patient and know that your family practice team has your best interest at heart.

Become an active participant in your healthcare by asking questions and advocating for yourself and family members. Gone are the days when what the doctor says is gospel.  You must become a knowledgeable consumer and if you do not like the way you are being treated seek out a second opinion. This is not just your duty, it is your right as a healthcare consumer.

For further information speak with a healthcare practitioner, seek out information from the Thyroid Foundation of Canada, and follow up with a medical appointment if you, or a family member, or friend are experiencing any of the above symptoms. (www.thyroid.ca)

This article is dedicated to a very lovely lady that I met at the Toronto Caribbean Expo on May 7th, 2017.  Alanna Gilbert Zelau.  It was a pleasure speaking with you and thank you for providing me with the topic of thyroid disease. Thanks again to Grant Browning for the opportunity and the space to be able to enlighten our readers with information on healthcare issues.

 

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