Hyperthyroidism second most common endocrine disease in Malaysia, warns doctor

Untreated hyperthyroidism can lead to serious health problems, early diagnosis crucial

26 May 2024 10:04am
Photo for illustration purposes only. - 123RF
Photo for illustration purposes only. - 123RF

KUALA LUMPUR - Hyperthyroidism, a thyroid disease, is the second most common endocrine disease after diabetes in Malaysia, Consultant Breast and Endocrine Surgeon at Sunway Medical Centre (SMC) Dr Wong Mei Wan said.

She explained that hyperthyroidism occurs due to excess hormone production, leading to symptoms such as restlessness, weight loss, heat intolerance, and excessive sweating, while hypothyroidism, caused by insufficient hormone production, presents symptoms like fatigue, weight gain, and persistent lethargy.

"The causes of hyperthyroidism vary, ranging from autoimmune diseases like Graves disease to thyroiditis triggered by excessive iodine intake. Conversely, hypothyroidism can occur as a result of surgery due to removal of the thyroid gland. Genetics may also contribute to some thyroid issues,” she said in a statement recently.

Graves’ disease is an autoimmune condition causing hyperthyroidism, goiter, and potentially other organ-affecting symptoms, she explained, adding that thyroid diseases were categorised by functionality, including hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, and cases where the thyroid gland functions normally but has nodules.

Many cases of hyperthyroidism go untreated, Dr Wong said, because its symptoms can resemble common issues, and around 50 per cent of people with thyroid disease are undiagnosed, according to recent research, which suggested a higher prevalence of thyroid diseases among women.

"Because the symptoms of both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism can be difficult to distinguish if it’s a normal occurrence or it’s due to imbalances, it is imperative that people seek help If they encounter these symptoms. With hyperthyroidism, this is even more important as it can lead to serious health problems even death,” she added.

Dr Wong said to diagnose thyroid diseases, healthcare professionals commonly conduct thyroid function tests, which are blood tests that assesses hormone levels.

"Thyroid symptoms, whether hyper or hypo, are often nonspecific, leading to misinterpretations. If you have symptoms that are persistent over a one month period, see a healthcare professional and get a thyroid function test.

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"Ultrasound may be recommended if nodules or abnormalities are suspected in your thyroid function,” she said, pointing out that there were misconceptions over thyroid nodules as having a nodule did not necessarily mean medication was required or that it was cancerous.

Dr Wong also emphasised that as long as patients' thyroid levels remained normal, medication was unnecessary even with nodules present.

"Thyroid awareness is a critical component of maintaining overall health.

"With the complexities of thyroid disorders, it stands to reason that there is a need for regular check-ups, awareness of symptoms, and early intervention that can significantly contribute to optimal thyroid health,” she added. - BERNAMA