June is an important time to shed light on one of the most vital glands in our body — the thyroid. This small but mighty butterfly-shaped gland located in the neck plays a crucial role in regulating our metabolism, growth, and energy levels. Thyroid disorders affect millions of people worldwide, however 50% of people suffering thyroid disorders are undiagnosed or unaware of their condition. June is Thyroid Awareness Month in Canada and is a great time to raise awareness about thyroid health as early detection and proper management are crucial for maintaining optimal health.
The thyroid gland produces hormones that control various bodily functions, including metabolism, heart rate, body temperature, and more. When the thyroid gland becomes overactive (hyperthyroidism) or underactive (hypothyroidism), it can lead to a range of symptoms and health complications. Hyperthyroidism is characterized by an overproduction of thyroid hormones, resulting in symptoms such as weight loss, rapid heartbeat, anxiety, and irritability. On the other hand, hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland fails to produce enough hormones, leading to fatigue, weight gain, depression, and cold sensitivity.
Managing thyroid disorders involves a combination of medical treatments, lifestyle adjustments, and ongoing monitoring. Treatment is personalized based on the nature of one’s thyroid disorder, symptoms, and comorbidities. Your PharmaChoice Pharmacist can help support you during your thyroid treatment, especially if it involves medication. Below are some of the most commonly used treatment strategies:
1. Hormone Replacement Medication: In cases of hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), synthetic thyroid hormone replacement medication (such as levothyroxine) is often prescribed to restore normal hormone levels. Consistent medication intake is crucial, and dosage adjustments may be necessary over time. Your Pharmacist can counsel you on how to properly take this medication, what to expect while taking it, and answers any questions or concerns you may have.
2. Antithyroid Medications: For hyperthyroidism, medications such as methimazole or propylthiouracil (PTU) may be prescribed to block the excessive production of thyroid hormones. These medications are typically used as a temporary measure until other treatments take effect, or if radioactive iodine therapy is not suitable.
3. Radioactive Iodine Therapy: This treatment is typically used for hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid). Radioactive iodine is taken orally to reduce the excessive production of thyroid hormones. This therapy is usually given under the guidance of an endocrinologist or nuclear medicine specialist.
4. Surgical Intervention: In certain cases, thyroid surgery may be necessary. This involves the partial or complete removal of the thyroid gland. Surgery is typically considered when other treatments fail, in cases of thyroid nodules, or for suspected thyroid cancer.
5. Dietary Considerations: Some individuals with thyroid disorders may benefit from dietary modifications. For example, those with hypothyroidism may need to ensure an adequate intake of iodine through iodized salt or iodine-rich foods. However, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before making significant dietary changes.
6. Stress Management: Stress can exacerbate symptoms of thyroid disorders. Implementing stress reduction techniques such as exercise, meditation, and relaxation exercises may help in managing symptoms and promoting overall well-being.
7. Regular Monitoring: Ongoing monitoring is essential to ensure treatment efficacy and to make any necessary adjustments. This typically involves periodic blood tests to assess hormone levels and ensure they are within the optimal range. Pharmacists can help coordinate with your healthcare team to ensure you receive the necessary tests and assist in interpreting results, providing valuable insights into your progress.
Thyroid Awareness Month serves as a reminder that a healthy thyroid is vital for overall well-being. By understanding thyroid disorders, their symptoms, and available treatments, you can take control of your health and lead a fulfilling life. Your PharmaChoice Pharmacist is available as a resource, offering support, knowledge, and guidance throughout your thyroid health journey.