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International survey reveals that almost a third of women could not explain what thyroid disorders are
Most respondents were unaware that symptoms could be a result of an underlying thyroid disorder
Merck, a leading science and technology company, today announced its support of the 9th International Thyroid Awareness Week (ITAW), a week that highlights some of the lesser-known aspects of thyroid disorders, which runs from May 22 to 28. This year's ITAW campaign, 'It's not you. It's your thyroid.', highlights the striking similarities between the symptoms of thyroid disorders and the effects of today's fast-paced lifestyles. It is based on results from an international survey commissioned by Merck, in collaboration with Thyroid Federation International (TFI), which reveals many women blame themselves, and their lifestyle choices, for symptoms such as weight changes, irritability, anxiety, insomnia, and excessive tiredness, not realizing that a thyroid disorder could be the underlying cause.
Thyroid disorders affect an estimated 200 million people worldwide and in some countries almost 50% of people remain undiagnosed. Thyroid disorders are 10 times more common in women, by the age of 60, 17% of women will develop hypothyroidism, the most common type of thyroid disorder. If thyroid hormone imbalances are undiagnosed and left untreated, they may have a harmful effect on a person's health and well-being., It is therefore critical that people are aware of the symptoms, and if spotted, they are not ignored.
The survey involved women in seven countries, and highlighted the tendency of women to blame their lifestyle choices for symptoms that could be caused by a thyroid disorder. Nearly half (49%) of respondents said they had blamed their lifestyle choices for feeling restless or having difficulty sleeping, while 40% blamed lifestyle choices for feeling depressed, anxious, and tired. In reality, these are common symptoms of a thyroid disorder. This tendency to blame symptoms of lifestyle choices could be further exacerbated by the fact that almost a quarter (23%) of respondents could recall telling a friend or loved one to accept feeling depressed, anxious, or irritable as part of life, while 19% of respondents could recall telling them to accept feeling tired or sluggish every day.
Ashok Bhaseen, President of TFI, said: "The survey results highlight an important reason why millions of people go through life without being diagnosed or treated for a thyroid disorder, resulting in a poor quality of life. It reveals that thyroid disorders can be the culprit hiding behind the symptoms that many of us put down to today's busy lifestyle. We hope it will encourage more people to speak to their healthcare professional rather than dismissing their symptoms as a normal part of everyday life."
The aim of the 'It's not you. It's your thyroid.' campaign is to help people recognize that they may be wrongly blaming themselves for their symptoms. Some of the symptoms of too little thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism) are constipation, lack of motivation, lack of concentration, depression, or weight gain. The symptoms of too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism) include weight loss and irritability., Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can lead to anxiety, menstrual difficulties, and difficulty sleeping.,
The survey underlined why it can be so difficult to spot a thyroid disorder. Symptoms such as feeling unable to concentrate (29.6%), difficulty getting pregnant (30%), and slow bowel movements and constipation (29%) were not commonly associated with thyroid disorders by respondents. A feature of thyroid disorders that makes them difficult to spot is that the hormones produced in the thyroid gland help regulate many different functions in the body. The symptoms can therefore be diverse and are not specific or unique.
Simon Sturge, Chief Operating Officer at Merck's Biopharma division, said: "Merck is partnering with TFI on the International Thyroid Awareness Week for the ninth year running. Together, we help to ensure that people have the information they need to recognize potential thyroid disorders and see their doctor, rather than blame themselves and accept how they're feeling. A simple blood test can check whether or not the thyroid gland is functioning normally."
Campaign materials can be accessed via the campaign website at http://www.thyroidaware.com. These include a brochure and an interactive quiz that address misconceptions about the symptoms of thyroid disorder, and provide information to help people identify if they could be suffering unnecessarily.
ITAW is now an established and highly regarded global awareness campaign endorsed by the American Thyroid Association (ATA), the European Thyroid Association (ETA), and the Chinese Society of Endocrinology (CSE). For more information visit the ITAW website, http://www.thyroidaware.com.
About thyroid disorders
There are two primary types of thyroid disorder: hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, which both have different causes and symptoms.
Hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid gland, is caused when the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones. This means that the body's cells can't get enough thyroid hormones to work properly and the body's metabolism slows down.
Hypothyroidism can have many causes, including autoimmune disease, damage to the thyroid gland, too much or too little iodine, and radiation treatment.
Left untreated, the symptoms of hypothyroidism will usually progress, and can cause more serious complications and even become life-threatening.
Hyperthyroidism, or an overactive thyroid gland, occurs when the thyroid gland releases too much thyroid hormone in the bloodstream, speeding up the body's metabolism.
Hyperthyroidism tends to run in families, occurring most commonly in young women.
The majority of cases of hyperthyroidism are caused by a condition called Graves' disease. In this condition, antibodies in the blood activate the thyroid gland, causing it to grow in size and secrete too much thyroid hormone. Another type of hyperthyroidism is characterized by nodules or lumps in the thyroid gland, which increase the levels of thyroid hormone in the blood. It is important that the symptoms of hyperthyroidism are not left untreated as serious complications can occur.
How common are thyroid disorders?
Thyroid disorders are some of the most-frequent diseases in the world with about 1.6 billion people worldwide at risk. By the age of 60, 17% of women and 8% of men suffer from an underactive thyroid.
An underactive thyroid gland is more common in women than in men and its occurrence rises with age. An overactive thyroid gland is 10 times more common in women than in men. It is most common in the age group of 20-40 years, but may occur at any age.
About the survey
The global omnibus survey was conducted by Censuswide, with online interviews conducted 24-31 January 2017 among the women aged 18 and over.
From seven countries worldwide 6,171 women were polled:
France - 1,006 respondents
Italy - 1,004 respondents
Mexico - 1,002 respondents
Brazil - 1,003 respondents
Saudi Arabia - 151 respondents
Chile - 1,001 respondents
Indonesia - 1,004 respondents
People with a history of thyroid disorders were screened out.
The survey results established respondent's responses to 10 issues that are associated with thyroid disorders.
About Thyroid Federation International (TFI)
TFI first convened in Toronto at the 11th International Thyroid Congress in September 1995. Diana Meltzer Abramsky, who in 1980 founded the Thyroid Foundation of Canada in Kingston, Ontario Canada, first advocated the vision of a world thyroid patient organization to deal with the problems of thyroid disease in a global perspective. Since then the Federation has grown to include thyroid organizations in many parts of the world, including Europe, North and South America, Australia, and Japan. TFI is an independent, worldwide network of patient-support organizations. The Federation works together for the benefit of those affected by thyroid disorders by providing information and raising awareness, by encouraging and assisting the formation of patient-oriented groups, and by working closely with the medical professions. TFI has a Medical Advisory Board, which consists of some of the most eminent thyroid specialists in the world. For more information, please visit http://www.thyroid-fed.org/tfi-wp/.
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