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Why women should prioritise regular thyroid checkups

IANS Mar 13, 2024

Thyroid disorders are highly prevalent among women, and can affect them from puberty to pregnancy to menopause, said doctors on 12 March emphasising the importance of regular checkups.

Thyroid disease affects the functioning of the thyroid gland -- resembling the shape of a small butterfly at the front of the neck. It plays a vital role in producing essential hormones such as triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) -- that help in weight management, boosting energy levels, maintaining internal temperature, skin, hair, nail growth and metabolism, among others.

The overproduction or underproduction of T3 and T4 raises the risk of diseases like hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, thyroiditis, and thyroid cancer. These are more common in women in various stages of life due to their link with the female sex hormone oestrogen.

"Thyroid disorders can take a toll on women at any stage of life, with hypothyroidism often causing fatigue, weight gain, dry skin, hair loss, and constipation. Moreover, hyperthyroidism may manifest as weight loss, palpitations, tremors, and diarrhoea in women," said Vaishali Naik, Thyroid & Gestational Diabetes and Endocrinologist, Lilavati Hospital Mumbai.

"Age-related symptoms can also signal thyroid problems in women and children; delayed or premature puberty in girls and growth issues are examples. Adolescent girls may experience irregular periods while reproductive-age women might have irregular menstrual cycles or recurrent pregnancy losses," she added.

Common thyroid symptoms include fatigue, chills, constipation, dry skin, weight gain, facial swelling, tone changes, muscle weakness, muscle pain, menstrual cycle changes, hair thinning, depression, memory problems, and slow heart rate. Thyroid also causes mood swings, insomnia, and fatigue.

However, in some women, these symptoms may be absent, while others tend to overlook and ignore them, leading to potentially serious health consequences down the line, the doctors said.

"Thyroid problems can affect women at any point in life, from puberty to pregnancy to menopause. Currently, thyroid problems are increasing in women. Every day two to three women come to the outpatient department suffering from thyroid. The key to managing these issues effectively lies in prompt treatment and consistent monitoring," said Chhya Vaja, Internal Medicine Expert, at Apollo Spectra Mumbai.

Chhya also pointed out the impact of stress on thyroid health in women, "due to various societal and biological factors, which can exacerbate thyroid issues if left unaddressed".

The doctor advised stress management techniques, and lifestyle changes like diet and exercise for better thyroid and overall health.

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