The thyroid gland, situated in the lower part of the neck, plays a vital role in the production of essential hormones, namely triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). These hormones regulate the metabolism, growth and development of the human body, mood, breathing, heart rate, body temperature and much more.
Thyroid disorders can be categorized into two main types: structural and functional disorders. The first includes enlargement of the thyroid gland (goiter) and the formation of nodules, which may be benign or, rarely, cancerous.
Functional diseases, which affect the general population, include hyperthyroidism (overactivity) and hypothyroidism (underactivity) of the thyroid gland.
“Thyroid disease affects any age, from birth to old age,” he said.
doctor Idrees Mubarik, Consultant Endocrinologist, German Saudi Hospital, Dubai.
“Although the most common age group affected is between 20 and 40 years, mainly women, it can also be present in children. Thyroid diseases can affect the growth and mental development of young patients. It can also cause other symptoms like dry skin, lethargy, weight gain, swelling in feet and face, etc.
Citing international numbers, Dr. Mona Ahmed Samaha, a specialist pediatrician at Canadian Specialist Hospital in Dubai, said it is estimated that around 37 out of every 1,000 children have thyroid disease.
“When the thyroid gland does not function properly, children are at risk for delayed brain development, particularly in newborns, growth problems, weight problems, and early or delayed puberty. These long-term complications can be avoided with early diagnosis and proper management.”
Implementation of universal newborn screening rules has led to increased detection of thyroid disease in children, said Dr. Idrees.
This proactive approach ensures that all newborns are screened for thyroid disorders within the first week of life, allowing for early intervention and treatment. Previously, these conditions often went undiagnosed in children, he pointed out.
The Doctor. Idrees noted that while hereditary factors often manifest themselves later in life, neonatal and childhood hypothyroidism is usually sporadic. Risk factors include iodine deficiency and maternal intake of antithyroid medications. Recent research also suggests a potential link between obesity and elevated TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) levels in children.
“Some children are at greater risk for hypothyroidism. Inadequate or excessive iodine intake are risk factors associated with thyroid conditions.”
“Those with genetic conditions such as Down syndrome, Williams syndrome or Turner syndrome and autoimmune disorders such as type 1 diabetes or celiac disease need to undergo regular thyroid screenings,” said Dr. Mona.
She also pointed out that a history of radiation to the head and neck in cancer patients of any age may increase the risk of developing thyroid disorders, including thyroid cancer.
symptoms to watch out for
Doctors pointed out that hypothyroidism can also cause irregular menstrual cycles in girls after the onset of puberty.
The impact of thyroid disorders is not limited to physical health, as it can also cause mood disorders. Forgetfulness, fatigue, mental slowness, inattention, emotional lability, panic attacks, anxiety, tension, sleep disturbances, short temper and impatience have been linked to thyroid disorders.
Therefore, early detection and proper management are vital to ensure the normal development and overall well-being of those who experience these symptoms.
When it comes to treatment options, both experts emphasized the effectiveness of medication in treating thyroid disorders. Hypothyroidism can be successfully treated with a daily dose of synthetic thyroid hormone, while hyperthyroidism can be controlled with antithyroid medication.
In severe cases, radioactive iodine ablation may be required to destroy overactive thyroid tissue. Surgical intervention, such as partial or total removal of the thyroid gland, is considered for cases involving goiter, overactive nodules, or thyroid cancer.
In 2007, the International Thyroid Federation designated May 25 as World Thyroid Day to raise awareness of thyroid-related disorders, promote understanding of the importance of early diagnosis and treatment, and educate the public about thyroid health. The day serves as a global platform for various organizations, healthcare professionals and individuals to come together and highlight the importance of thyroid health in overall well-being.