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Thyroid problems 101: A doctor explains signs, complications and what you can do

Updated on:9 April 2021, 18:15pm IST
Thyroid gland is extremely important due to its function of producing the thyroid hormone but an issue with the gland can affect your whole body. That’s why we are educating you about thyroid problems in women.
Dr Piya Ballani Thakkar
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How much do you know about one of the most important glands in your body? Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Most of us are aware of the existence of the thyroid gland, yet there is a lack of understanding about the functions it performs. Until of course, thyroid problems crop up. 

Thyroid gland: hormones and functions

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland, located in the lower part of the neck. It is part of the endocrine system. Its main function is to regulate metabolism by secreting the thyroid hormone. Iodine present in the blood plays an important role in the production of this hormone.

The gland secretes Triiodothyronine (T3) hormone and the Thyroxine hormone (T4). They play a crucial part in the normal functioning of the heart, brain, kidney, and liver, as well as the overall growth and development of the body.

Thyroid problems
Don’t let hypothyroidism ruin things for you and your body. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Thyroid issues in women

Thyroid issues impact both men and women, but it is the second most common endocrine condition in women of childbearing age after diabetes1. It isn’t clear as to why thyroid issues affect women more than men, but it could be due to hormonal factors and iodine deficiency. Auto-immune diseases are a result of the body interpreting a normal part or secretion as foreign and fighting against it by producing antibodies. This is considered to be one of the major causes of hypothyroidism that commonly impacts women.

What is hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism is a condition where the body doesn’t produce enough of the thyroid hormones, resulting in the natural functions of the body slowing down. There are multiple symptoms of hypothyroidism like irregular menstrual cycles in women, constipation, low heart rate, increase in weight, and fatigue. 

Treatment options mostly rely on supplementing the low hormone in order to balance the overall functioning of the body. However, it is best advised to visit your doctor and seek their advice on tHypothyroidism can cause several complications in women of all age groups. They are as follows:

  • Young women – Heavy bleeding, irregular periods, acne, facial hair, etc
  • Adult women – If ignored, it can lead to infertility issues in women of reproductive age
  • Pregnant women – Hypothyroidism impacts pregnancy, and can lead to miscarriages and premature birth
  • Older women – It could lead to problems like high cholesterol, hypertension, etc

Additionally, underactive thyroid function could also lead to depression.

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Ways to keep the thyroid gland healthy
  • Balanced diet – Following a healthy diet with adequate iodine intake along with whole grains, proteins, beans, etc. is recommended. It is important to avoid processed foods and added sugar.
  • Exercise – Regular physical activity can promote the proper functioning of the body.
  • Follow medical advice – It is extremely important to talk to your doctor and adhere to thyroid supplementation under their guidance. Checking your thyroid levels as recommended for dose adjustment is imperative. 

Chronic medical conditions may worry you upon diagnosis but getting the right medical help and understanding the condition well can go a long way in leading a normal life. Adopting a healthy lifestyle, not just for yourself, but also for the family, will help in navigating these challenges better and with confidence.

Dr Piya Ballani Thakkar Dr Piya Ballani Thakkar

Dr Piya Ballani Thakkar is s Consulting Physician & Endocrinologist at Bombay Hospital and Medical Research Centre and Dr Ballani’s Clinic in Colaba. She is the Founding Member and Honorary Secretary of the PCOS Society (India). Her special interests include women’s health, gynaecology, endocrinology, diabetes and thyroidology.