Monitor your thyroid

The key to treating thyroid diseases is early detection. Here’s a quick guide on how to do so

Thyroid, the small gland with the big impact, affects each and every organ and function of your body and maintains the metabolic balance.

Anyone over 35 yrs should be screened for thyroid disease every five years. Anyone with family history should be screened once every two years and should get himself or herself examined by a general physician once every year.

Keeping your thyroid healthy involves

  • Awareness: Know the risk factors, signs and symptoms, and common screening tests for thyroid disorders (hypothyroidism, and hyperthyroidism)
  • Self monitoring: Check your neck by:
    • Standing in front of a mirror
    • Stretching neck back
    • Swallowing water
    • Look for any bulge, protrusion or enlargement in neck (below Adam ’s apple, above the collar bone)
    • Feel the area to confirm enlargement or bump

Regular general physical examinations and screening

Sub-clinical thyroid disease is much more common than overt disease. Keeping in mind the prevalence of thyroid disease in India, screening is an important tool to identify and treat patients at risk for the health consequences of thyroid dysfunction.

Anyone with the following risk factors needs to undergo once a year screening by a general physician followed by basic diagnostic tests:

  • All women
  • People above age 50
  • Personal or family history of thyroid disease or any auto immune disease
  • High stress life events
  • Being pregnant or in the first year after childbirth
  • Current or former smoker
  • Consuming Iodine in herbal supplements or medicines
  • Living in an iodine deficient area
  • Over-consumption of certain foods like Brussels sprouts; turnips, cauliflower, soy products etc
  • Recent neck trauma, biopsy, injection, surgery or radiation

Basic diagnostic tests to analyze thyroid function and the risk for thyroid disease include

  • TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone), often considered the ‘Gold Standard’ to assess thyroid function and detect sub clinical thyroid disease.
  • Free T3 and free T4, reflective of the unbound and directly effective thyroid hormone levels.
  • Tests for thyroid antibodies
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