Could you have thyroid disease?

Did you know that several Filipinos suffer from thyroid-related disorders? At last January’s 13th Goiter Awareness Week forum, the Philippine Thyroid Association revealed that of 106 million Filipinos, 9 million (or 8.9 percent) more Pinoys have some form of thyroid disease—a staggering number next to the 5 to 6 million Filipinos affected with diabetes.

A small butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of your neck, the thyroid produces hormones that regulate the body’s metabolism. An out of whack thyroid presents a slew of symptoms: weight loss or weight gain, irregular heart rate, fatigue, dry skin, sleep issues, and the most obvious sign, an enlarged thyroid.

But thyroid disease can be managed too, judging from the high-profile personalities who continue to thrive in their careers despite their health issues. Supermodel Gigi Hadid and Hollywood stars Zoe Saldana and Gina Rodriguez have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disorder characterized by mild weight gain, intermittent menstrual periods, and intolerance to cold, among other symptoms. Quirky singer Sia has Graves’ disease, another autoimmune disorder that causes the thyroid to overproduce hormones. Symptoms include irritability, trouble sleeping, excessive sweating, goiter, and bulging eyes.

Could you have thyroid disease? Top hospital in the Philippines Makati Medical Center (MakatiMed), through its Section of Endocrinology, cites three common types of thyroid conditions and their respective symptoms and treatments.

GOITER. A prevalent condition in the Philippines, it is marked by an enlarged thyroid, which appears as a noticeable, non-cancerous bulge in the front of the neck. “This can make swallowing difficult due to the compression of the esophagus, if the goiter is too big,” says Jimmy B. Aragon, MD, Section Chief of Endocrinology.

According to Dr. Aragon, goiter may be due to a diet deficient in iodine, although not as frequent now. “Women of reproductive age are also prone to goiter because they are experiencing some hormonal changes.” Diagnosed through physical examination and sometimes ultrasound, goiter is treated surgically if the goiter is large (especially if it interferes with your breathing and swallowing).

HASHIMOTO’S THYROIDITIS. A form of hypothyroidism, this condition happens when the immune system attacks the thyroid, destroying its ability to produce hormones. “Symptoms of this condition include some weight gain, dry hair and skin, constipation, a pale and puffy face, fatigue, and possibly goiter,” he explains. Women from their 40s to their 60s are vulnerable to this disease, but young women and teens can also get it.

According to Dr. Aragon, a blood test determines whether you have adequate amounts of the Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) and thyroid hormones. “When your thyroid is damaged, your hormone level drops.” Hormone-replacing medication helps elevate thyroid hormone levels and relieves symptoms.

GRAVES’ DISEASE. A form of hyperthyroidism, Graves’ disease leads to such symptoms as anxiety, hand tremors, weight loss, fatigue, increased heart rate, frequent bowel movements, goiter, and bulging eyes.

Again, diagnosis depends on the presenting symptoms as well as results of the blood tests,” Dr. Aragon points out. “Taking medication and radioactive iodine, and in certain cases thyroid surgery, are ways to treat the disease.”

No matter what form of thyroid condition you might have, early diagnosis is key to overcoming the symptoms and averting any complications. “Left untreated, hypothyroidism can lead to nerve damage and a difficult pregnancy,” says Dr. Aragon. “Hyperthyroidism’s complications, meanwhile, include pregnancy issues, osteoporosis, weakening of the heart and its pumping capacity as well as development of irregular heart beating that could result to blood clot formation leading to stroke.”

If you have symptoms of thyroid disease, see your doctor immediately for some tests and a proper diagnosis,” Dr. Aragon adds. “With the right treatment, you can live a productive and healthy life.”

For more information, please contact MakatiMed On-Call at +632.88888 999, email,

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