World Thyroid Day: 60% of patients don’t know they have a condition

Since 2008, all 25 of May is celebrated on world thyroid day, proposed by different international health associations. With this, it is intended to create awareness among people about the importance of functioning of this gland and its impact on different parts of the body.

According to World Health Organization (WHO)It is estimated that approximately 750 million people they will suffer from some condition in the thyroid, of which a 60% do not know.

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The thyroid is a small gland, in the shape of a butterfly, which is located at the front of the base of the neck and produces hormones, known as T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine)that arrive through the bloodstream to the whole organism, for its correct functioning.

This organ, which is part of the endocrine system, It can regulate temperature, growth, development, reproduction, and is involved in the functioning of cells in the heart, intestine, muscles, and brain.

Thyroid conditions

There are two types of conditions in which thyroid glands. On the one hand, there are the anatomical ones, which alter its structure; how is he goiter, which involves an enlarged thyroid; the nodules, which generates lumps in the neck; or the thyroid cancer. On the other hand, there are pathologies that worsen its functioning, where you can find the hypothyroidism and the hyperthyroidism.

He hypothyroidism It occurs when the thyroid does not produce enough secretion of hormones necessary for proper performance of the body. On the contrary, the hyperthyroidism It happens when the body produces more thyroid hormone than is needed.

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eduardo fauremember of the Thyroid Department of the Argentine Society of Endocrinology and Metabolism (SAEM), commented on it in conversation with PROFILE: “studies prove that between a 20% and 30% of the population You may have some thyroid disease.

He endocrinologist explained that one of the most common causes of the hypothyroidism is due to autoimmune thyroiditis, also known as the Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. This disease consists in the fact that “our own organism does not recognize as its own the excesses that are in the thyroid and produces proof that they attack the gland”, said the doctor.

On the other hand, the graves disease is one of the causes of hyperthyroidism and it works with a similar mechanism, but instead of stopping the thyroid glands, the immune system stimulates them.

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Risk factors for developing thyroid diseases may be hereditary genetic predisposition, certain environmental situations, stress, exposure to radiation (for example, radiation therapy in the neck area), the iodine deficiency in the diet or the consumption of some drugs.

Symptoms of thyroid diseases

Thyroid diseases, especially hypothyroidism, can be hard to identify as they tend to develop slowly over the years. In addition, it presents symptoms that are shared with other conditions or that can even be confused with everyday life, such as fatigue and hair loss.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism

They depend on the severity of the pathology and are related to a slowdown in the functional activity of all body systems. According to the Ministry of Health, these are some of the ways in which it can manifest:

  • Fatigue
  • dry and cold skin
  • Decreased heart rate
  • drowsiness
  • hair loss
  • Increased or difficulty losing weight
  • constipation

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Symptoms of hyperthyroidism

They are related to an acceleration of the functions of the organism. Among the ways in which the signs of this disorder are presented can be found:

  • excessive nervousness
  • insomnia
  • palpitations
  • Warm and sweaty skin
  • Increased heart rate with palpitations
  • Weight loss despite coexisting with a certain appetite
  • frequent diarrhea
  • Mild tremor in hands and fingers
  • bulging eyes and bright gaze

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If the person suspects that they may have any of these pathologies, they should consult a doctor endocrinologistwho will be the one who deems appropriate or not to prescribe studies based on the examination of the patient and his thyroid glands.

Analyzes are done through Blood tests of thyroid studies, through a thyroid ultrasoundand/or with a control radioactive iodine uptake.

Hyperthyroidism and eye disease

One of the most common causes of hyperthyroidism is due to graves disease, which is an immune system disorder that results in the overproduction of thyroid hormones. This can cause symptoms such as the appearance of bulging eyes and vision problems, a condition called ophthalmopathy.

The incidence of Graves’ hyperthyroidism in the general population is around 210 cases per million people per year, especially among patients between 40 and 60 years of age, with a female-male ratio of 3.9 cases versus 1, respectively. Meanwhile, the incidence of Graves’ ophthalmopathy is 42.2 cases per million per year, that is, the 20.1% of patients with Graves’ hyperthyroidism.

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Actress Susan Sarandon suffers from Graves’ disease

“A disease that affects the thyroid gland can damage the eyeball, causing inflammation of the tissues surrounding the eyes, both muscular and fatty, and an increase in the size of these tissues,” explains Dr. Rodolfo Vigo (MN 1030053 ) ), head of the Ophthalmology Service of the Austral University Hospital.

According to the specialist, the symptoms are usually evident: “The palpebral retraction, which causes one of the eyelids seems more open than normal, is the most common problem in this disease, and can affect both the upper and lower eyelids. The same occurs with exophthalmos, or bulging eyes; double vision, and eyelid edema”.

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Treatment for thyroid diseases

According to the Ministry of Health, for the treatment of hypothyroidism daily intake is prescribed medicine of the thyroid hormonecalled levothyroxine (Levo-T, Synthroid, others). The drug is taken orally and restores hormone levels to healthy ranges, eliminating symptoms.

The initial dose depends on different variables such as age, weight, severity and duration of symptoms or the presence of other diseases. The patient may need to take levothyroxine foreveralthough the amount is adjusted every 4 to 6 weeks, depending on the efficiency of the drug.

On the other hand, for the treatment of hyperthyroidism are performed different therapies according to the severity of the pathology and what the endocrinologist considered more relevant for each case.

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Beta blockers: They are the ones that can reduce the symptoms of tremors, rapid heartbeat and nervousness. They work quickly and may feel better for the patient until other treatments take effect.

Antithyroids: They cause the thyroid to make less thyroid hormone. They may need to be taken for 1 to 2 years, although in some cases they may need to be taken for several years. It is the simplest treatment but often does not have a permanent cure.

Radioactive iodine therapy

It is a common and considered effective treatment for hyperthyroidism, since 90% of patients achieve remission. Consistent take radioactive iodine by mouth through a capsule or liquid. This slowly destroys the cells in the thyroid glands that make thyroid hormone.

The side effect of this therapy is that almost everyone who receives radioactive iodine treatment later develops hypothyroidism. This is because the thyroid hormone-producing cells are destroyed. But, according to specialists, hypothyroidism is easier to treat and causes fewer long-term health problems than hyperthyroidism.

In turn, the pregnancy it is an absolute contraindication to iodine treatment and women of childbearing age, before being treated, must have a negative pregnancy test.


It is done in exceptional cases and serves to remove part or most of the thyroid glands. It is often used in people with large goiters or who cannot take antithyroid medications.

If the entire thyroid is removed, the patient will need to take levothyroxine for the rest of his life. Also, some people who have only part of it removed must also take this medicine.


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