Magazine article Drug Topics

New Campaign Seeks to Increase Thyroid Awareness

Magazine article Drug Topics

New Campaign Seeks to Increase Thyroid Awareness

Article excerpt

The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) has launched a new campaign to increase public awareness of thyroid disorders. Entitled "The Neck's Time Is Now," the program is aimed at educating Americans about key periods, from birth to advanced age, when people are at increased risk for developing a thyroid disorder.

More than 13 million Americans are affected by thyroid disease now, yet more than half remain undiagnosed. "Early disease is relatively asymptomatic. But, in addition, early disease may have symptoms that can be mistaken for other problems," said Hossein Gharib, M.D., F.A.C.E, a vp. of RACE and professor of medicine at the Mayo Medical School.

For example, he said, the elderly patient who comes in complaining of fatigue or trouble concentrating is often dismissed as suffering from the normal process of aging. A simple test for serum thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) can easily be done to rule out an underlying thyroid condition.

"The important thing that has happened in the past decade, since the early 1990s, has been the development of TSH [testing]. Before the sensitive TSH was available, we had a gray zone between normal and abnormal thyroid. The sensitive TSH test clearly defines thyroid disease," he added.

Complications that can arise if thyroid disease is left untreated include elevated cholesterol levels and subsequent heart disease, infertility, muscle weakness, and osteoporosis. While it may not be economically feasible or necessary to test all patients for thyroid dysfunction, there are instances when thyroid screening is appropriate. This is also an area where pharmacists can counsel patients on the appropriateness of thyroid screening. AACE advises TSH testing during the following times:

Birth through adolescence: Routine screening for cretinism, a growth and mental disorder brought on by a lack of thyroid hormone, is done on all newborns by administering a heel-pad test. But for older children, parents need tube made aware that symptoms such as difficulty concentrating and inattentiveness at school, hyperactivity, unexplained daytime fatigue, delayed puberty, dry and itchy skin, and increased sensitivity to cold and heat may all be symptoms of an underlying thyroid condition. Many parents voice their concerns about the diagnosis of attention deficit disorder and question pharmacists about the treatments available. This would be a good time to mention thyroid screening to rule out that possibility.

The reproductive years (pregnancy): AACE advises expectant mothers to take a TSH test before pregnancy or as part of the standard prenatal blood work. …

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