Despite the high prevalence and associated burden, thyroid disorders remain neglected in India. Nearly one-third of people living with hypothyroidism go undetected.

The thyroid is a large endocrine gland located in your neck which plays a major role in the metabolism, growth and development of the body. It releases thyroid hormones that helps to regulate multiple functions including energy levels, weight, heart rate and mood. Hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid disorder occurs when the thyroid gland does fail to produce enough thyroid hormones to meet the needs of the body. There is a high prevalence of hypothyroidism in India. It is estimated that at least 1 in 10 adults in India or 10.95% are affected by hypothyroidism. This is significantly higher than that in developed countries, which ranges between 2% and 5%.

Sadly, despite the high prevalence and associated burden, thyroid disorders, along with other non-communicable diseases (NCDs), remain neglected in the country. As per a study conducted across eight cities in India, nearly one-third of people living with hypothyroidism experience the disorder without diagnosis. This suggests, a large proportion of the population experiencing thyroid disorders may not be seeking treatment. In addition, there is low penetration of screening for the condition across the Indian population.

In Mumbai alone, 16.36% of adults suffer from hypothyroidism with 2.86% of cases go undiagnosed, according to Dr. Manoj Chadha, Senior Consultant Endocrinologist, HOPE & CARE Hospital, Vashi, Navi Mumbai.

In the prevailing circumstances, there is a discernible gap in addressing such chronic health conditions. To bridge this gap, doctors have called for an urgent need to raise awareness to enable greater understanding of thyroid disorders, as well as highlighted the importance for regular thyroid screening.

Hypothyroidism and potential complications

The low awareness of thyroid disorders is compounded by non-specific symptoms like fatigue, excessive weight gain, constipation, dry skin, cold intolerance, muscle cramps, and puffy eyelids. If left untreated, thyroid disorders can result in elevated cholesterol levels, irregular menstrual cycles, depression, and may even lead to serious cardiovascular and neurological complications.

Overall, thyroid disorders impair the daily quality of life, work performance and economic productivity of an individual.

Compared to men, women are three times more susceptible to hypothyroidism, which puts them at higher risk of infertility and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). Hypothyroidism also has concerning implications for pregnant women, including the risk of placental abnormalities, anaemia, preeclampsia, miscarriage, and postpartum bleeding. Hence, physicians across the globe recommend screening for thyroid disorder during pregnancy.

Frequent screening helps timely diagnosis, reduces complications

Highlighting the need for timely diagnosis of thyroid related conditions, Dr. Chadha said, “Adults who are aged 35 years and above, pregnant, and middle-aged women in particular, are at high risk and may suffer additional complications if a thyroid disorder is left untreated. Undetected hypothyroidism results in increased vulnerability to comorbidities such as diabetes and hypertension. The pathophysiological association between Type2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) and thyroid dysfunction is believed to be the result of interplay between various biochemical, genetic, and hormonal malfunctions. Poorly managed T2DM can lead to insulin resistance, hyperinsulinemia and increased risk of hypoglycaemic episodes in diabetics. As a result, it increases the cardiovascular risk in T2DM.10.”

“This can only be reduced with frequent screening to ensure timely diagnosis, which in turn will drive treatment and disease management for hypothyroidism at an early stage,” he added.

‘Making India Thyroid Aware’

To reduce hypothyroidism burden on India’s healthcare system, global healthcare company Abbott is committed to raising awareness on thyroid disorders in the country through various initiatives.

Dr. Srirupa Das, Medical Director, Abbott commented, “By educating people at higher risk, including women, about the nature, prevalence and symptoms of the condition, we aim to create awareness, which would facilitate timely diagnosis and treatment. We are committed to continue ‘Making India Thyroid Aware’ so that every individual can be empowered to pursue better health.”

Through its ‘Making India Thyroid Aware’ (MITA) campaign, Abbott is undertaking various initiatives to increase awareness about thyroid disorders that aid early detection and diagnosis. The company has partnered with the Indian Thyroid Society to carry out an awareness drive across various states within the country and women’s health workshops.

This post first appeared on The Health Site

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