Thyroid Screening, The Urgent Need In India

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One in ten Indian adults, or 11.95 percent, have hypothyroidism or an underactive thyroid. The prevalence rate in developing countries is significantly higher than in developed countries, ranging between 2% and 5%. In Bangalore alone, 9.23% of adults suffer from hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism could be hereditary. If a family member has thyroid disease, the risk of developing the disease is higher. Although thyroid disorders and other noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) are highly prevalent and burdensome, they are ignored. As things stand, such chronic health conditions are not adequately addressed in the current environment. As part of Abbott’s commitment to raising awareness, the company launches various initiatives to make thyroid disorders more readily understandable and to promote regular screenings.

The thyroid gland plays a major role in the body’s metabolism, growth, and development while also regulating multiple functions, including energy levels, weight, heart rate, and mood. Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones to meet the body’s needs. Unfortunately, as per a study conducted across eight cities in India, nearly one-third of people living with hypothyroidism experience the disorder without a diagnosis. Thus, a large proportion of the population experiencing thyroid disorders may not be seeking treatment. This low awareness is compounded by non-specific symptoms like fatigue, excessive weight gain, constipation, dry skin, cold intolerance, muscle cramps, and puffy eyelids.

There is low penetration of screening for the condition across the Indian population. However, if left untreated, thyroid disorders can result in elevated cholesterol levels, irregular menstrual cycles, depression and may even lead to serious cardiovascular and neurological complications. Overall, thyroid disorders impair an individual’s daily quality of life, work performance, and economic productivity.

Women are three times more susceptible to hypothyroidism than men1 and are at a higher risk of infertility and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). Hypothyroidism also has concerning implications for pregnant women, including the risk of placental abnormalities, anemia, preeclampsia, miscarriage, and postpartum bleeding. Therefore, physicians across the globe recommend screening for thyroid disorders during pregnancy.

Highlighting the need for timely diagnosis of thyroid-related conditions, Dr. Prasanna Kumar, Senior Consultant Endocrinologist, Centre For Diabetes and Endocrine Disorders, Bangalore, said, “In Bangalore alone, we have seen 3.81% cases of hypothyroidism go undiagnosed. Adults aged 35 years and above, pregnant and middle-aged women, in particular, are at high risk and may suffer additional complications if a thyroid disorder is left untreated. Undetected hypothyroidism results in increased vulnerability to comorbidities such as diabetes and hypertension. The pathophysiological association between Type2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) and thyroid dysfunction is believed to be the result of an interplay between various biochemical, genetic, and hormonal malfunctions. Poorly managed T2DM can lead to insulin resistance, hyperinsulinemia, and increased risk of hypoglycaemic episodes in people with diabetes. As a result, it increases the cardiovascular risk in T2DM. This can only be reduced with frequent screening to ensure timely diagnosis, which in turn will drive treatment and disease management for hypothyroidism at an early stage.”

There is a growing need to counter the hypothyroidism burden, and it is associated with complications to limit both current and future pressures on India’s healthcare system.

Dr. Srirupa Das, Medical Director, Abbott, commented, “Abbott is committed to raising awareness on thyroid disorders in India. By educating people at higher risk, including women, about the nature, prevalence, and symptoms of the condition, we aim to create awareness to facilitate timely diagnosis and treatment. We are committed to continuing ‘Making India Thyroid Aware’ so that every individual can be empowered to pursue better health.”

Through its ‘Making India Thyroid Aware’ (MITA) campaign, Abbott continues to undertake various initiatives to increase awareness about thyroid disorders that aid early detection and diagnosis. Such initiatives include Abbott’s partnership with the Indian Thyroid Society to carry out an awareness drive across various states and women’s health workshops. To date, the campaign has been successful in educating close to 6 million people through various consumer/healthcare professional initiatives.

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