| At least 5% Mumbaikars suffer from
thyroid disorders: Doctors
TIMES NEWS NETWORK
Mumbai: Every year, over 6,000 new patients with a malfunctioning
thyroid gland gingerly troop into the Radiation Medicine Centre, housed
as it is in the imposing-sounding cancer-speciality Tata Memorial
Compared to cancer, thyroid is a benign—if at times a lifelong—condition.
But thyroid can disrupt lives—with lack of concentration, weight gain
or lossdepression, hairfall and nervousness. Given the environmental
triggers—lack of iodine in diet or day-to-day stress—the incidence
of thyroid malfunction seems to be growing in a city like Mumbai.
“Each of the doctors on duty here sees eight to nine cases every day,’’
says RMC chief Dr N Nair, adding that the RMC has the “largest file
on thyroid in the world’’.
In Mumbai, Dr R D Lele of Jaslok Hospital believes at least 5% of
Mumbaikars — that is, roughly around six lakh people—suffer from some
form of thyroid disorder. “There are twice as many thyroid cases as
diabetes, but it is among the least detected as people don’t always
rush to their doctors with it,’’ says endocrinologist Dr Shashank
Joshi, adding that over 60 million Indians suffer from some form of
Thyroid produces T4 hormone that many experts believe is the body’s
“mobile charger’’. Any imbalance here could result in iodine deficiency,
goitre (swelling of glands), hypothyroidism (when the gland stops
working altogether) and hyperthyroidism (when it overworks).
While women are the worst sufferers, men are not immune to thyroid
imbalances, says Dr Sushil Shah, who gets a minimum of 200 blood samples
for detection of thyroid imbalance every day at his Metropolis chain
of laboratories. In fact, soccer star Baichung Bhutia has been diagnosed
with an overfunctioning thyroid gland (hyperthyriodism, as his Kolkata
doctors have said). A few years ago, former US president George Bush
Sr was diagnosed with Graves Disease a form of thyroid imbalance in
which the eyes bulge out.
The ratio between men and women patients is 1:8, say experts. Even
Graves Disease is more common among women than men. And men tend to
suffer more from hyperthyroidism than hypothyroidism.
Genes also play a role here, say experts. “If a family member has
a thyroid problem, there is a 10% chance a boy and a 20% chance a
girl from the family will have a similar problem,’’ says Dr Joshi.Moreover,
doctors believe that environmental factors such as iodine deficiency
in the diet and increasing levels of stress in urban life are leading
to more detection of cases. Stress could affect the absorption of
iodine by the butterfly-shaped thyroid gland or trigger the auto-immuno
system in which antibodies affect the thyroid instead of affecting
invading bacteria, says a doctor.
India’s thyroid problem has a paradoxical edge. While thyroid problems
such as hypo and hyperthyroidism go undetected in rural centers, it
is often overtreated in urban centres. “Every week I get 20 patients
who have thyroiditis (enlarged thyroid) which is best left untreated
as it is self-limiting,’’ says Dr Lele, adding that many doctors give
medicines for the condition.
Even in young girls nearing puberty the thyroid gland swells up. “There
are doctors who believe in treating this even though it gets normal
within a short time,’’ says Dr Nair.
He believes that there is a lot of hype and confusion over thyroid.
“But the main thing to remember is that it’s simple to investigate,
detect and treat with medicines, radioactive iodine or surgery.’’