Although the thyroid gland’s function is integral to our wellbeing, thyroids don’t get much fanfare. This butterfly-shaped gland in our throat is responsible for producing thyroxine and triiodothyronine, collectively known as the thyroid hormone.
Despite the thyroid hormone’s role in regulating our metabolism and its connection to other bodily functions, such as our digestive system, thyroid conditions can develop slowly. Some people with thyroid issues may not realise that treatment is needed until their symptoms become more severe.
About five to ten percent of people in Singapore have a thyroid disorder (2018). Although thyroid issues can develop at any stage of life, they are more common in women between the ages of 20 to 50. Women are also five times more likely than men to develop thyroid issues.
People with a family history of thyroid disorders may also face a higher risk of developing thyroid issues themselves. For example, children and siblings of people with autoimmune thyroid diseases are more likely to develop thyroid problems. To be specific, children face a 16-fold risk of developing thyroid issues while siblings face a 15-fold risk.
Some common thyroid disorders include:
- Hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid
- Hyperthyroidism, or an overactive thyroid.
- Graves’ disease, an autoimmune condition that results in hyperthyroidism
- Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune condition that results in hypothyroidism
Common symptoms relating to Thyroid issues
Thyroid issues can manifest themselves in the form of unexplained weight loss or gain, an intolerance to heat or cold, and a heart rate that is slower or faster than usual.
If you are often tired, recently experienced weight gain and find that you can no longer tolerate the cold, you may have hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid. On the other hand, if you have been losing weight unexpectedly and have developed an inability to tolerate the heat, coupled with a rapid or irregular heartbeat – you might have hyperthyroidism.
It is important to note while men and women can experience many of the common symptoms interchangeably, there are also gender-specific symptoms. For instance, while women may encounter irregular menstrual cycles, men may experience periodic paralysis caused by muscle weakness.
Thyroid issues can even manifest themselves in psychological symptoms which can affect one’s mood. People with hyperthyroidism may experience anxiety, restlessness and irritability; while people with hypothyroidism may encounter depression and mild to severe fatigue. In certain cases, this can lead to problems with emotional regulation, even anger issues.
How to fix thyroid issues
Fortunately, thyroid issues are treatable.
Hypothyroidism can be treated with thyroid replacement medication, which can substitute for the thyroid hormones that you are missing. There are also anti-thyroid medications that work by suppressing your overactive thyroid, by stopping your thyroid from making hormones.
Additionally, there is radioactive iodine to prevent your thyroid from making high levels of thyroid hormones by damaging the cell lining of your thyroid.
A permanent fix is also available via surgery, where your thyroid will be surgically removed. However, you may need to be on thyroid replacement medication for the rest of your life. Your doctor will be able to advise you on the best course of action for you.
When to get help from a doctor
If you suspect you may have thyroid issues, we suggest you consult a general practitioner doctor at a private clinic. Osler Health provides private doctors in Singapore and will be able to review your symptoms and provide the appropriate tests to confirm whether you have thyroid issues.
Depending on your symptoms, the Osler Health doctor may recommend a blood test, to determine if your hormone levels are out of the ordinary.
At Osler Health, we have dedicated doctors who will be glad to work with you to address your concerns. Our centrally located clinics in Star Vista and Raffles Hotel Arcade are easily accessible, whether you’re visiting us via public or private transportation.
Have queries or need help scheduling an appointment? You can contact us via phone call or email and one of our friendly reception staff will be happy to assist you.