1) Is thyroid disorders common in society?
Yes, it is by far the most commonest endocrine disorder in the community. It affects around 15-20 % of our population. These disorders include hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism and thyroid nodules. Women seem to be more prone for thyroid disorders.
2) What causes thyroid disorders?
It is mainly due to a disorder of the immune system (which serves to protect our body) resulting in the destruction of the thyroid gland. The destruction which leads to permanent hypothyroidism and requires life long treatment. The immune system can also stimulate the gland to produce hyperthyroidism. In 30- 40 % of these people, remission of the disease is possible with medical treatment.
3) Is treatment with thyroxine life long?
Hypothyroidism (resulting in deficiency of thyroid hormone) is by far the commonest form of thyroid disorder in the community and if a correct diagnosis is made then the medication (thyroxine) needs to be taken life long.
4) How is thyroxine taken?
It is taken orally (by mouth) first thing in the morning. One should give at least 30 minutes after taking the tablet before one has their morning cup of tea/ coffee (plain water is fine).
5) When/how should the blood be given for thyroid function test?
Blood for thyroid function test is ideally given on empty stomach, first thing in the morning before taking the thyroxine tablet but should it become difficult to do so then it can be given at any time during the day (irrespective of whether the tablet is taken or not).
6) Does thyroid dysfunction have anything to do with diet?
Food groups ( especially the brassica family of vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli) should be avoided in iodine deficient areas where endemic goitre is prevalent (your doctor can be consulted on this issue). Most parts of our country are iodine sufficient and therefore no dietary restrictions are necessary.
7) How risky is being diagnosed with a thyroid nodule?
There is a small but significant risk (around 5 %) of harbouring cancer in a thyroid nodule. The risk increases with the size of the nodule, extremes of age ( in very young and old people), family history of thyroid cancer, etc.
8) Who should you consult for thyroid disorders?
You should ideally see an certified Endocrinologist who is most qualified in the treatment thyroid disorders.
9) Who is an Endocrine Surgeon?
A surgeon who specialises in the surgical treatment of thyroid and other endocrine glands is called an Endocrine Surgeon.