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WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT HYPOTHYROIDISM

By Vision Reporter

Added 3rd July 2007 03:00 AM

What is it?
Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone. The thyroid depends on minute amounts of iodine usually found in food, water or iodised salt to work properly.

What is it?
Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone. The thyroid depends on minute amounts of iodine usually found in food, water or iodised salt to work properly.

What is it?
Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone. The thyroid depends on minute amounts of iodine usually found in food, water or iodised salt to work properly.

Incidence
Wrongdiagnosis.com says 97 cases were recorded in Uganda in the period 2006-2007. The condition is common in the mountainous areas of the West, East and North East. Women are affected more than men. The incidence of hypothyroidism increases significantly in the elderly.

Causes
The most common cause of thyroid gland failure is autoimmune thyroiditis (also called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis), a form of thyroid inflammation caused by the patient’s own immune system. It is an inherited condition where the body’s immune system attacks its own thyroid gland. This causes a thyroid enlargement or goitre and progressive thyroid destruction.

The thyroid gland can also fail after a viral disease, reaction to medical treatments, surgical removal of a portion or all of it.

The gland may also be ‘normal’ but not making enough hormone because of a problem in the pituitary gland, which is supposed to give it a signal to make the hormone.

Iodine deficiency also causes hypothyroidism because it leads to low thyroid hormone levels and goitre.

Children may be born with the condition because it is known to be genetic.

Symptoms
Hypothyroidism seldom causes symptoms in the early stages, but over time, it can cause a number of health problems, such as obesity, joint pain, infertility and heart disease.

In children born with the condition, you will notice prolonged jaundice (yellowish discolouration of the whites of the eyes, skin, and mucous membranes). Their appetite is poor and their interest in feeding is little.

Constipation is also common. The child is sluggish, sleeps more and is less active. It cries very less and remains dull. Its head, tongue and belly may begin to grow bigger than normal. Umbilical hernias are common. The physical development is undoubtedly slower and baby is presented with floppy muscle, late milestones, late teething and small size. Their hands are typically wide but with short structure.

In adults, signs depend on the degree of severity which also varies according to the duration and extent of thyroid hormone deficiency. They include fatigue, weakness, weight gain, coarse, dry hair, dry, rough pale skin, hair loss, failure to tolerate the cold, muscle cramps and frequent muscle aches. Others are constipation, depression, irritability, memory loss, abnormal menstrual cycles and decreased libido.

If you have these symptoms, look for an endocrinologist (doctor who specialises in the diagnosis and treatment of conditions affecting glands and hormones).

Who is at risk?
The condition can develop in anyone, though hypothyroidism tends to run in families. Middle-aged and elderly women are the most commonly affected.

You are at risk if you have a family history of thyroid disease, have had a previous diagnosis of goitre or currently have goitre and if you have ever suffered from hypothyroidism or any disease that affected your thyroid gland (e.g thyroiditis).

People who have had any other autoimmune disease (where your own immunity fights against any of its own tissues, cells or cell components), have had a baby in the past nine months, a history of miscarriage and surgery on or around the thyroid gland can also get it.

In children
Some babies are born without a thyroid gland or with a gland that does not work properly. Later, a baby will develop the symptoms and, as the disease progresses, fail to grow and develop normally. When hypothyroidism in infants is not treated, even mild cases can lead to severe physical and mental retardation, poor growth, resulting in short stature and delayed development of permanent teeth.

Treatment
This disease must be controlled as early as possible. There are many ways to keep thyroid gland in normal functioning mode. Apart from the supplement of the thyroid hormones, diet and life–long drug therapy can work.

Hypothyroidism is completely treatable in many patients.

Diet
Healthy diet can keep thyroid gland healthy and normal. Foods that depress the thyroid activity (like soy, beans, mustard greens, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower) should be restricted. Other foods to avoid are the refined foods, sugar, dairy products, wheat, caffeine and alcohol. If you have it in your family or got any problem with your thyroid gland, take a lot of iodine and take only iodised salt.

Another diet therapy is essential fatty acids. Eat a lot of fish with omega 3 fatty acids. The Nile Perch has 21.8grammes per 100g weight, lungfish has 19.7, tilapia 14.1 and catfish 12.3.

Also take a lot of fruits. It is proven that Vitamin C, B complex, A and E are very essential for thyroid hormone production. Take these vitamins in enough quantity.

Compiled by Jackie Nake

WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT HYPOTHYROIDISM

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