This week is International Thyroid Awareness Week, and Patient Claim Line’s Medical Negligence Solicitor, Jennifer Argent is keen to share some of the lesser known, but nonetheless important, statistics behind thyroids and its related health issues.
The initiative was launched by Thyroid Federation International to promote awareness of thyroid conditions and the challenges that individuals with this condition might face.
If you believe you have received a medical misdiagnosis related to your thyroid, the below information will explain the importance of knowing the symptoms, and where you can turn for help and support.
What is a thyroid?
The thyroid is a small butterfly shaped gland that sits in the neck and produces hormones used in metabolism.
If the thyroid does not work properly, it can affect all sorts of body systems and can cause a range of symptoms.
If the thyroid is underactive, it can lead to feelings of:
• Excessive sensitivity to cold
• Weight gain
• Poor concentration and depression
In addition, if the thyroid is overactive it can cause:
• Weight loss
• Sore and gritty eyes
A simple blood test with your GP can tell you if your thyroid isn’t working as it should be. Although, it’s important to know that a great deal of individuals suffer with symptoms without ever knowing the cause.
Both conditions – either underactive or overactive thyroid – are treatable, although it may mean taking medication for life.
Thyroid Federation International estimates that millions of people are living with a thyroid disorder and are undiagnosed, therefore needlessly struggling through their daily lives when there is treatment available.
What do we need to be aware of?
An underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism) is where your thyroid gland does not produce enough hormones. Common signs of an underactive thyroid are tiredness, weight gain and feeling depressed.
On most occasions, an underactive thyroid can often be successfully treated by taking daily hormone tablets to replace the hormones your thyroid is not making.
However, there are occasions the issue simply isn’t recognised and you may need a second, or third opinion, to resolve the issue.
Don’t worry too much, though. Hypothyroidism is found in about 2% of the UK population. So, if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, you can check with a doctor first.
Who can be affected?
Typically, women are actually five to ten times more likely to be affected than men, with more than five per cent of those over 60.
However, both men and women can have an underactive thyroid, although it is more common in women.
Children are also not immune. They can, on occasion, develop an underactive thyroid and some babies are born with it, too.
According to NHS UK, in the UK, ‘all babies born are screened for congenital hypothyroidism using a blood spot test when the baby is about 5 days old.’
It’s important to note that people can with suffer with cancer of the thyroid, although it is rare, affecting only 4% of the population.
Usually the treatment is removal of the thyroid and the prescription of thyroxine to replace the hormone levels.
It can be difficult to establish the correct level of medication following surgery and some people will need to be kept under the review of an endocrinologist until it stabilises for them.
Why is this week an important one for raising awareness?
Currently, there are no standardised diagnostic or referral criteria to guide primary care decision making for those with structural thyroid abnormalities (UK).
Therefore, it’s vital that everyone is aware of what the thyroid is and the symptoms to look out for.
If you’ve been affected by misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis of a thyroid problem, Patient Claim Line can help.
Our experienced legal team will work tirelessly on your behalf to get you the answers that you deserve, and the compensation that make a difference to your life.
In addition, our no win no fee service means there are no upfront payments and it costs you nothing to find out if you have a case.
For more information on thyroid disorders, visit NICE guidance