Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Unmasking Your Thyroid: How to find out if you've got hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism?

 I have often been asked if I had hypothyroidism by well meaning friends of mine. That's because I seem to have the symptoms (i.e. dry skin, slow metabolism, somewhat depressed). But to be honest, I didn’t know anything about it until Merck Inc. invited me to Unmasking your Thyroid Blogger’s Event held last September 21 at the Yakan Function room of Holiday Inn Makati.  During the said talk, Dr. Nemencio Nicodemus Jr., President of the Philippine Society of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, Professor at the UP College of Medicine and Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health gave us an informative talk. He also made sure that bloggers who were present clearly understood the difference between hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. He was able to enlighten my thoughts on the different conditions concerning our thyroid glands. He talked about each symptoms and what we can do about it. So now, if you will allow me, I'd like to share what I have learned with you.  

Dr. Nemesio Nicodemus Jr., President Philippine Society of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism

So what is the importance of our thyroid glands? And when do you say that you have hypothyrodism and hyperthyrodism? Based on my own understanding of Dr. Nicodemus' lecture, The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped organ located in the base of your neck. It releases hormones that control metabolism—the way your body uses energy. The thyroid's hormones regulate vital body functions, including: Breathing, Heart rate, Central and peripheral nervous systems, body weight, muscle strength, menstrual cycles, body temperature, as well as our cholesterol levels. The thyroid gland is about 2-inches long and lies in front of our throat. 

How the Thyroid Gland Works

The thyroid is part of the endocrine system, which is made up of glands that produce, store, and release hormones into the bloodstream so the hormones can reach the body's cells. The thyroid gland uses iodine from the foods we eat to make two main hormones:
  • Triiodothyronine (T3)
  • Thyroxine (T4)

It is important that T3 and T4 levels are neither too high nor too low. Two glands in the brain—the hypothalamus and the pituitary communicate to maintain T3 and T4 balance.
The hypothalamus produces TSH Releasing Hormone (TRH) that signals the pituitary to tell the thyroid gland to produce more or less of T3 and T4 by either increasing or decreasing the release of a hormone called thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH).
Why You Need a Thyroid Gland

T3 and T4 travel in your bloodstream to reach almost every cell in the body. The hormones regulate the speed with which the cells/metabolism work. For example, T3 and T4 regulate your heart rate and how fast your intestines process food. So if T3 and T4 levels are low, your heart rate may be slower than normal, and you may have constipation/weight gain. If T3 and T4 levels are high, you may have a rapid heart rate and diarrhea/weight loss.

Listed below are other symptoms of too much T3 and T4 in your body (hyperthyroidism):
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability or moodiness
  • Nervousness, hyperactivity
  • Sweating or sensitivity to high temperatures
  • Hand trembling (shaking)
  • Hair loss
  • Missed or light menstrual periods
The following is other symptoms of too little T3 and T4 in your body (hypothyroidism):
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Dry skin and hair
  • Depression
  • Sensitivity to cold temperature
  • Frequent, heavy periods
  • Joint and muscle pain
These are the number of iodine we need daily.

Based on a recent study by the Philippine Society of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, one in every 11 Filipino adults has goiter, and around 12 Filipino adults suffered from thyroid disorders. It is quite an alarming number if you ask me. The problem is that most Filipinos aren't even aware they have it. And why is that so? Simply because the awareness is extremely low. Except for hypochondriacs, most Filipinos would just ignore the symptoms (until it had gotten worse)while others would often mistake them for other diseases. 

 You could also know if you have symptoms of either hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism by taking this online test. Of course, consultation with the doctor is still a must. But just so you'd gain further knowledge as well as know its symptoms, more additional information are also available on the website to raise the public's awareness on thyroid diseases which coincides incidentally with Thyroid Awareness month--September. 

The website contains specific guidelines which can help people check themselves for symptoms of thyroid disorders like goiter, hyperthyrodism or hypothyroidism. It's important to become aware before it's too late. This is also extremely significant, especially if it runs in the genes, if you have family history of thyroid diseases as well as during pregnancy. Cliche as it may sound, but prevention is still a whole lot better than cure. The key is proper information as well as early detection. So get yourselves tested if you've got the symptoms! 

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