Friday, June 9, 2017

International Thyroid Awareness Week 2017 (ITAW 2017)

Most Filipinas may not be fully aware what thyroid conditions are. Perhaps when you ask them, the most common they could say about thyroid is about “goiter” or also called ‘bosyo’ in the vernacular. But what thyroid is and how it affects the lives of many women, that’s the main issue. It was such a good thing that I was able to attend the recently concluded International Thyroid Awareness Week 2017 (ITAW 2017) event held at the Trade Hall of Robinson’s Novaliches. This year's theme was, "It's Not You, It's Your Thyroid."

Registrants came early for the said event.

The card pass for the ITAW2017 event

The ITAW 2017 wasn’t just your ordinary boring lecture type of event. To make it more engaging among participants and attendees, Merck treated attendees to a pampering session with free nail art, eyebrow threading, massage, kinect dance activities, makeover sessions apart from the educational and interactive information on thyroid diseases along with doctor’s consultation.

The self-checking tests with the following symptoms for Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism

One of the many activities was watching a short film on Thyroid

Most thyroid conditions have been and continue to be incorrectly diagnosed through exclusive use of TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) testing as the sole signifier of possible thyroid dysfunction. Unfortunately, TSH is wrongly considered by the majority of endocrinologists and many other physicians to be the only indicator required to produce an accurate and comprehensive analysis of one’s thyroid health. Because of this many people come away from their physicians as being misdiagnosed or having their thyroid condition completely disregarded. 

This lady checks her own symptoms before the actual free doctor's consultation

Doctors and endocrinologists examines the patient's thyroid.

Zumba kicked off the said event.

Kinect dancing activity was also a big hit to the participants.

Dr. Teofilo San Luis gave his lecture.

In honor of the recent Thyroid Awareness Week 2017, allow me to share some information I have learned regarding the little gland.

 Thyroid 101

The thyroid is a small gland located in the base of your neck that is part of the endocrine system. This tiny gland has a big job and nobody disputes that! The gland is responsible for various functions including the metabolism, regulating body temperature, cognitive function, digestion, and much more. To make it easy, the thyroid affects the entire body and when it is not working properly you will definitely feel the effects.

Thyroid Problems

Many people are somewhat familiar with the condition known as hypothyroidism; this typically describes the condition where the thyroid gland is in a sub-optimal state and is not producing enough of the thyroid hormones necessary for the body to function, but hypothyroidism is also linked to thyroid conversion issues (the inactive form, T4, is not converting to the active form, T3) and transport issues. While this condition counts for many people that are suffering from thyroid dysfunction, there are various other conditions, as well. These conditions include hyperthyroidism (thyroid gland in an over-active state), Graves’ disease and Hashimoto’s disease (autoimmune diseases), goiter (thyroid enlargement), thyroid nodules (growths on the thyroid gland that can be caused by another condition, i.e. Hashimoto’s), and thyroid cancer.

Dysfunction Symptoms

The symptoms of course vary depending on the condition, but there are many warning signs that something is not right. There are over 300 symptoms that indicate thyroid dysfunction, the most common ones being,
·         Cold hands/feet (hypothyroidism)
·         Dry skin (hypothyroidism)
·         Unexplained weight gain (hypothyroidism)
·         Unexplained weight loss (hyperthyroidism)
·         Loose bowels/diarrhea (hyperthyroidism)
·         Vision issues (Graves’ disease)
·         Difficulty swallowing (goiter/thyroid nodules)
·         And much, much more!

Finding the Problem

One misconception that continues to be held as fact about thyroid dysfunction is that the TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) test is the best way to determine if an individual has a thyroid problem. This is far from true! The TSH test doesn’t even test the thyroid! Yes, you read that correctly! The test used to determine if an individual has a thyroid problem doesn’t even test the thyroid itself. Instead, the TSH test, checks the levels of the pituitary gland. The TSH is the hormone that is produced by the pituitary gland to tell the thyroid gland to create more or less hormones; however, this doesn’t tell us how much of the thyroid hormones are being produced, how many are being converted to the active form of thyroid (T3) versus the reverse (RT3), or if the hormones are even getting into the tissues.
The best way to find out if you have a thyroid problem is by having the following blood tests ran.
·         Free T4
·         Free T3
·         RT3 (Reverse T3)
·         TSH
·         Anti-thyroid peroxidase antibody (anti-tpo antibody)
·         Antithyroglobulin antibody
·         Sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG)
These results combined with the measurement of your reflex speed, basal metabolic rate, and a clinical assessment can determine whether or not you have a thyroid issue.
During the said event, the National Coordinator of the Philippines, Iodine Global Network, Dr. Teofilo San Luis gave a lecture dubbed as "The Thyroid Masquerade." He mentioned that thyroid diseases can be confusing to both patients and physicians because they manifest in a lot of ways. 

Women in particular tend to attribute symptoms such as changes in weight, restlessness, lethargy, mood swings, a lack of concentration or sleep disorders to their general lifestyle rather than a possible thyroid disorder. 

An underactive thyroid gland is more common in women than in men and its occurrence rises with age. An overactive thyroid gland is 10 times more common in women than in men. It is most common in the age group of 20-40 years, but may occur at any age.

It is based on results from an international survey commissioned by Merck, in collaboration with Thyroid Federation International (TFI), which reveals many women blame themselves, and their lifestyle choices, for symptoms such as weight changes, irritability, anxiety, insomnia, and excessive tiredness, not realizing that a thyroid disorder could be the underlying cause.

This campaign is to help people recognize that they may be wrongly blaming themselves for their symptoms. Some of the symptoms of too little thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism) are constipation, lack of motivation, lack of concentration, depression, or weight gain. The symptoms of too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism) include weight loss and irritability. Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can lead to anxiety, menstrual difficulties, and difficulty sleeping.

The International Thyroid Awareness Week (ITAW) 2017 aims for all to think carefully about whether you or someone you know might be suffering from a thyroid disorder. If you suspect this to be the case, go to your doctor and ask to be screened with a simple blood test. In the hands of a healthcare professional, thyroid disorders can be well managed.

The International Thyroid Awareness Week (ITAW) 2017 was presented by Merck in partnership with the Department of Health (DOH), Philippine Thyroid Association (PTA), Healthway, Philippine Society of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism (PSEDM), and the Iodine Global Network (IGN).

For more information, visit or follow “Unmasking Your Thyroid” on Facebook (

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