June is Thyroid Awareness Month

A staggering new statistic shows that many Canadians may be suffering from some form of thyroid disease and not even know it.

June is Thyroid Awareness Month and a recent study has shown that as many as 30% of Canadians, about 10 million, suffer from thyroid disease. Of that number, as many as 50% are undiagnosed cases.

The thyroid is a small gland at the base of the neck and it provides essential hormones for growth and metabolism.

Dr. Gordon Bailey, a specialist in internal medicine, said even here in Central Alberta there are tens of thousands of people living with thyroid disease.

“Thyroid disease is two or three times more common in women but most cases are under diagnosed or not diagnosed at all.”

As far as diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis Bailey said it is one of the easiest health issues to manage. If a doctor or patient suspects a thyroid issue may be present it can be diagnosed through bloodwork and other simple tests. Bailey did point out, too, that thyroid disease can generally be traced back in families.

“Most people with thyroid disease can find someone with it in their family history. There is a genetic predisposition to it and it makes it very uncommon to have someone present these issues with no family history.”

Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism are both easily treated, said Bailey, and do present symptoms but they are sometimes passed off as being nothing at all.

Hyperthyroidism speaks of an overactive thyroid gland while hypothyroidism indicates an underactive gland.

Symptoms for hyperthyroidism include weight loss, increased appetite, sweating, difficulty sleeping and nervousness or anxiety and irritability. Hypothyroidism, on the other hand, presents pale, dry skin, weight gain and fatigue.

Bailey said many people suffer unnoticed because their thyroid is only slightly over or underactive and the condition may not show up on one simple blood test.

“Thyroid problems are not a big problem unless they’re undiagnosed. Treatment is fast, simple and effective and allows people to move on with their lives.”

Bailey said one of the first steps anyone should take if they suspect their thyroid is not acting properly is to ask their family doctor to do the tests. He also said to be persistent, if there is no other explanation for your symptoms and they persist, so should you.

Treatment for hypothyroidism includes a simple pill taken that provides the same hormone that the thyroid is supposed to.

Hyperthyroidism has two options for treatment but Bailey said one of the most effective routes is to stop the thyroid from working completely and then provide the hormone in correct dosages via pill form medication.

Bailey said thyroid disease, though often not diagnosed in younger children, is common at all ages.

For more information on thyroid problems, visit www.thryoid.ca or www.mayoclinic.com or ask your family doctor.