Deepak (name changed), a 33-year-old non-smoker, teetotaller and a past hockey player, has been a fitness freak and almost never missed an exercise routine - not even after he joined a finance firm two years ago. But of late, he feels tired even during the office hours. And he feels cold in an air-conditioned room. One day he dozed off at his desk, even though he had a project deadline to meet. Unable to understand his current state of health, he consulted a physician who advised blood and urine tests. His thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) was found to be 1.5 times higher than the normal limit. The thyroid hormones - thyroxine (T4) and riiodothyronine (T3) - were found to be low. Deepak was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. His thinning hair, he was told, might also be a result of the thyroid problem.
While it is true that women are more likely to develop problems with their thyroid, increasingly more and more men are being diagnosed with thyroid disorders. Stress may exacerbate an underlying thyroid condition in both men and women.
The reason behind the higher prevalence of thyroid disorders in India is possibly linked to long-standing iodine deficiency in the country, which has only been partly corrected over the past 20 years by using iodised salt. However, undue iodine supplementation can also induce or aggravate autoimmunity, resulting in goitre and thyroid dysfunction. Further, since India is in its transition from iodine deficiency to iodine-replete status, such shift is followed by a spurt in autoimmune thyroid disorders, even in men.
Although it is easy to detect and inexpensive to treat, patients with thyroid disease in India often remain undetected and untreated.
The unregulated use of pesticides and exposure to pollutants are the other reasons. Unclean drinking water and exposure to industrial pollutants like resorcinol and phthalic acid have also been suggested as causes.
In a pan-India retrospective data analysis done at SRL, 23 per cent of men had abnormal TSH levels. The analysis showed the highest prevalence of the disease among men in the eastern zone of the country, followed by north, west and south. The younger population within the age group of 31-45 years was at higher risk of thyroid dysfunction (30 per cent) than the older population within the age group of 46-60 years (26 per cent).
Although thyroid is not a lifestyle disorder, we are observing a spurt in thyroid dysfunction amongst young and middle-aged urban Indian men and women. Under stress, the body releases the hormone cortisol. Too much cortisol can interfere with thyroid hormone production.
Director, Fortis SRL Labs & SRL Strategic Initiatives