The human body is one of the most fascinating wonders of life. We may not always notice how every cell in our body works to perform its tasks and functions. We may not always appreciate how the systems and organs are closely interconnected, so much so that the failure of one may affect everything else.
We take them for granted. I am guilty of that myself. When the demands of life overwhelm us, we tend to neglect the most important aspect that can make or break us – our health. When we get ill, treatments are mostly available, yes, but often at a very high cost. That is why most health advisories give more emphasis on prevention rather than cure.
Last September 29, I attended an awareness campaign on thyroid disease hosted by Merck Inc. The informative talk was given by Dr. April Melody Abcede of the Philippine Society Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism. It was titled Unmasking your Thyroid.
A study conducted by the Philippine Society of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism in 2012 showed that one in every eleven Filipino adults has goiter. It is also revealed that around one in every twelve Filipino adults suffers from some form of thyroid disorders. And although a great number of the population is affected, the awareness about this certain disease is sadly lacking. Most mistake the symptoms for other diseases. Some ignore it altogether. And others who do know about it believe persistent myths that can only exacerbate the situation. This disease is more prevalent in women than men. Women who are pregnant are more susceptible. It is also hereditary
My earliest recollection about this was in grade school. My mother cajoled me into eating iodine-rich food so I won’t end up like the old lady in one of the vegetable stalls in the public market who has a big lump on her throat. The trick worked and I finished my portion of fish and mussels without complaining.
So what is a thyroid?
The thyroid gland can be found in the front of the neck, below the Adam’s apple. It is shaped like a butterfly. This organ is part of the endocrine system, responsible for creating thyroid hormones that can aid the different organs of our body. These hormones have substantial effects in our brain (aiding our mood and behaviour, concentration, and attention and interest), kidneys (aids their fluid function, fluid regulation and water retention), heart (affects heart rate and rhythm, and blood pressure) and intestines (absorption and bowel habits). It can also affect the female reproductive system, influencing fertility and menstrual cycle.
People who have a history of thyroid disorder, and those who have iodine deficiency, autoimmune diseases, are more likely to be at risk of developing thyroid diseases.
The problem arises when the gland produces too little or too much hormones.
When there is an excess of hormones produced, we call it hyperthyroidism. Those who have this disorder will have hyperactive metabolism. They lose weight despite having good appetite. They experience heart palpitations. They have irritable thoughts and insomnia. They sweat a lot and have a low tolerance for heat. They can also have tremors in their hands.
When the gland fails to produce enough hormones, we call it hypothyroidism. In this case, patients tend to have a slower metabolism. They gain weight even if they do not eat much. They move and speak slowly. They feel tired and have depressed thoughts. They cannot tolerate the cold. And they tend to have irregular menstrual period. Other noticeable physical differences include dry skin and swelling.
Thyroid disease is generally treatable. Treatments may vary depending on the gravity of your condition. There are anti-thyroid drugs. You can undergo Radioactive Iodine Therapy (RAI). Or you can opt for surgery. These treatments, however, are not free.
That is why it is important to be aware and vigilant. We can do self-examination by checking if we have the symptoms. If we experience these symptoms and suspect that we may have this disorder, it is advisable to see our doctors and have it evaluated.
But since prevention is so much better than cure, salt iodination was initiated by the World Health Organisation. In the Philippines, there is also an existing Salt Law, aimed to promote salt iodination nationwide. We should make sure to take enough food rich in iodine. There are also iodine supplements that can aid the thyroid gland in its hormone production.
Remember, the key to a richer and fuller life is good health. And it helps a lot when we are aware of the importance of our body. It is not wise to wait to get ill before we do something. Let us take measures to safeguard our health now!
For more information, you may visit http://www.thyroid.ph.
“Unmasking Your Thyroid” is an awareness campaign brought to us by Merck Inc. Merck is the world’s oldest pharmaceutical and chemical company with headquarters in Darmstadt, Germany. Merck is a leading science and technology company that works to further develop technologies to improve and enhance life.
Featured image is taken from this page: https://www.facebook.com/thyroidph/.