AS more people become aware of common ailments such as hypertension, kidney, liver, heart and other diseases, it seems that health concerns related to the throat may not be attracting too much attention.
In fact, even studies related to the throat may already be too outdated already. It was way back in 2012 when a Philippine Thyroid Diseases Study (PhilTiDes-1) was done, which showed the prevalence of thyroid function abnormalities in the country was at 8.53 percent among adults, and among disorders related to the thyroid, goiter is most common with 10.12 percent.
THAT butterfly-shaped gland called the thyroid is found in front of the neck. How important is the thyroid gland? This organ regulates the body’s metabolism, temperature, and heart rate, and makes hormones that control how energy in our body is used.
The thyroid can be either overactive or underactive. Being underactive, or hypothyroidism, means the thyroid does not make and release enough hormones into the body This in turn slows down metabolism, thereby causing constipation, weight gain and makes a person get tired too quickly.
On the flipside, hyperthyroidism or overactive thyroid happens when the thyroid produces too much hormones than what the body needs. This causes rapid weight loss, heart palpitations, and anxiety, having trouble sleeping, increased bowel movements, skin dryness, among other symptoms.
Many studies have pointed to iodine deficiency, or low intake of iodine-rich food such as milk, eggs, and seafood, long considered as the top natural source of iodine, as the common culprit for thyroid disorder.
In terms of treatment, a thyroidectomy, or surgery that removes a part or even the whole thyroid, can be done. However, this is not performed that much as hyperthyroidism can also be treated effectively through non-invasive methods.
Feeling of weakness
IN the case of Vanessa Rue-Macalagay, who has been living with hyperthyroidism since 2015, she felt something was wrong when she suddenly felt so weak that she had difficulty getting out of bed, going to work or doing household chores.
“At first I thought it was a heart problem because I was experiencing palpitations and my weight started to drop tremendously. It also had had trouble sleeping and I didn’t have the appetite to eat food that I’d say it was exhausting physically, that my relatives told me to better go see an endocrinologist to check if I have thyroid concerns,” Macalagay narrated.
The moment the endocrinologist told her she has hyperthyroidism, Macalagay said the first thing she asked was if it was curable. The doctor responded positively by saying yes, though she had to be very patient. Another question that popped into her mind was if her ailment will prevent her from getting pregnant and have a child even if she was still single at that time. The doctor quickly assured her that she can despite her illness as long as she is able to manage it.
And Macalagay was happy that surgery was out of the equation in terms of her treatment since her doctor was not too keen about it and was just told to be patient.
“I’m taking oral medications that were adjusted when I got pregnant as my temporary maintenance to manage my hyperthyroidism and hopefully eventually be cured totally. I was informed about undergoing radiation as an option but it also has its risks that I needed to be aware and mindful of,” she said.
MACALAGAY said at present, she feels generally fine but still needs to be mindful of her oral medications because without them, she would feel very weak and will again feel the symptoms she experienced before she discovered she had hyperthyroidism. “Overall, I’m able to do the things that I love to do but when it comes to activities that would require physical strength/stamina, I still need to do it with moderation so I don’t experience palpitations.”
But what’s really important and valuable to her is the support her family accorded to her in dealing with her situation. She recalled how her then-boyfriend and now husband would accompany her during her regular check-ups with the doctor, and of course her siblings and the rest of her family who were really mindful of her condition.
“I think it’s important that aside from family and friends’ support, I also got involved in communities with people who have the same condition as mine. I got to realize how common this condition is and be able to not just get support from them but also encourage others, that our illness is curable and there is hope that we can hold on to,” Macalagay emphasized.