Thursday, September 22, 2016

Unmasking Your Thyroid

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that sits at the base of our neck. The word “thyroid” comes from the Greek word for “shield,” and this powerful little gland is truly one of our great defenders, as it orchestrates an intricate web essential interactions in the body. 

Millions of Filipinos are affected by problems with their thyroid, yet awareness of this disease is very low. The symptoms of thyroid disorders are often mistaken for other diseases, or worse, are ignored by patients with the disease.

To raise awareness of thyroid disorder, Merck Inc. held a bloggers event at the Holiday Inn Makati.

Dr. Nemencio Nicodemus, Jr., who is the President of the Philippine Society of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism, as well as a Professor in the UP College of Medicine and the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health, gave an informative talk on what the thyroid is, as well as the symptoms of thyroid disease.

The thyroid produces thyroid hormone, which is a like a master switch of your body. Every single cell in the body has thyroid hormone receptors found on its DNA. This little gland packs a powerful punch!  

Here are 5 things you might not know about the thyroid that I learned at the event:
1. The thyroid is the central gear in your body’s metabolism.  

Thyroid function intimately impacts the basal metabolic rate, cardiovascular system, bone metabolism, hormone production, glucose metabolism, red blood cell production, protein metabolism, cholesterol metabolism, gastrointestinal function, liver function, gall bladder and brain function. To keep your body in top condition, make sure that your thyroid is working optimally.

2. The thyroid gland is vulnerable to toxins. 

Patients with hypothyroidism, or too little thyroid hormone, tend to have slower metabolism: they gain weight despite not eating much, move and speak slowly, feel tired and have depressed thoughts, cannot tolerate cold, and have irregular menstrual periods.

3. Diseases of the thyroid can occur at any stage in life 

Patients with hyperthyroidism, or too much thyroid hormone, will have hyperactive metabolism: they lose weight despite having good appetite, have heart palpitations, irritable thoughts and insomnia, have sweating and heat intolerance, and can have tremors in their hands.

4. Thyroid hormones influence the immune system. 

Diseases of the thyroid can occur at any stage in life and are primarily classified into problems involving a.) the function of the thyroid gland (either overactive or underactive) or b.) the structure of the thyroid gland (changes in size or the development of nodules). Structural problems can include an enlarged thyroid gland (also known as a goiter [goy-ter]), a small thyroid gland (atrophic) or the development of either single nodules (solitary thyroid nodule) or multiple thyroid nodules (multinodular gland). Functional problems of the thyroid are initially evaluated with blood tests which are used to determine if the thyroid is functioning normally, or is overactive or underactive. The evaluation of structural problems of the thyroid is usually done with a thyroid ultrasound. Because a thyroid gland can often have both a structural problem and a functional problem simultaneously, the proper evaluation of a thyroid condition includes careful examination of both the structure and function of the thyroid gland. 

5. There are a lot of people who may have thyroid disorders, but aren’t even aware until it is too late.

 It is important to have one’s thyroid checked as early as possible, especially if there is family history of the disease, or during pregnancy. Prevention, proper information and early detection will always be better than cure that comes too late.

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