Thyroid disorders are far more prevalent than had previously been assumed claims a report published by global diagnostic chain SRL Diagnostics. India lacks an effective national policy to tackle the scope of the issue, the authors say.
The actual figures vary depending on the study. The high level of variation within the results is largely due to the defined group of thyroid conditions tested for. The biggest variation may be the inclusion of subclinical hypothyroidism. This is a very mild form of hypothyroidism that is sometimes an indication that the condition will worsen in the future. Antithyroid antibodies may be present in subclinical hypothyroidism, pointing to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, this causes a gradual loss of function in the thyroid and can lead to more severe hypothyroidism as the condition progresses.
Reports that include subclinical hypothyroidism, such as the results from SRL Diagnostics have suggested the condition is common amongst the Indian population, suggesting that it affects as much as 32 percent of the population.
The study was conducted on 33 lakh adults across India over the 2014 to 2016 period. Three markers of hypothyroidism were tested for: TSH, T3 and T4. The results showed that hypothyroidism was more prevalent in northern India than in the south. Though reasons are not given for this, there are known genetic risk factors related to thyroid conditions, which would suggest these genes are more common in north Indian populations.
Issues are more prevalent in women, though can also be present in men. Common side effects of hypothyroidism (low thyroid activity) include excessive weight gain, hormonal imbalances, fatigue and high cholesterol. Hyperthyroidism (excess thyroid activity) can
cause contrasting side effects, causing a high metabolic rate that leads to significant weight loss, a rapid heart rate and elevated blood pressure.
A poll from the Indian Thyroid Society (ITS) gives a figure of 1 in 10 adults suffering from hypothyroidism (the lower figure is due to the poll exclusively tracking hypothyroidism). The ITS also notes that awareness of the condition is low, ranking ninth compared to conditions such as asthma and depression. Dr RV Jayakumar, president, Indian Thyroid Society says,
“There is a significant need for us to reach out and make people aware of the causes, symptoms, treatment and importance of testing for thyroid problems. Women are a key audience because there is a higher incidence of thyroid disorders amongst women than men”
With thyroid conditions being so prevalent, especially amongst pregnant women, public awareness campaigns or the implementation of governmental policies regarding the condition would likely greatly benefit public health. As the symptoms are easily mistaken for those of other conditions, greater knowledge would ease the process of diagnosis.