Experts urge women experiencing signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism to get checked and treated for their health and well-being
Kuala Lumpur, May 22, 2017 – Malaysian Endocrine and Metabolic Society (MEMS) has teamed up with the Ministry of Health (MOH) Malaysia and an established healthcare partner, Merck Malaysia, to launch ‘Break Free From Hypothyroidism’, a community health promotion campaign to empower women who may be suffering from this disorder.
The launch ceremony was officiated by Dato’ Dr Hj Azman bin Abu Bakar, Director of the Medical Development Division, MOH Malaysia, who represented Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, Director-General, MOH Malaysia.
In her opening speech, Dr Zanariah Hussein, President of MEMS, said the campaign will be conducted under the ‘Transform Your Life’ programme that was jointly initiated by the Society and Merck Malaysia in 2015.
“This year, we decided to focus our efforts entirely on women as the disorder mainly affects females, compared with males.1 Our campaign will feature an online video, a clinic poster and an informational booklet. We hope these tools will help women recognise the signs and symptoms of mild to severe hypothyroidism,” Dr Zanariah explained.
“For sufferers, taking a simple blood test and being put on thyroxine pills (a synthetic form of thyroid hormones) may be all it takes to change their lives for the better.1 This is why we are delighted that the MOH Malaysia is enabling us to reach out and help more women through its established network of public hospitals and clinics,” she remarked.
Ms Ee Boon Huey, President and Chief Executive Officer of Merck Malaysia, also lauded the tripartite collaboration. She said: “Our company had partnered MEMS since 2015 and we are proud to reaffirm our continued strong support with this “Break Free From Hypothyroidism” campaign. By doing so, we further emphasise our corporate commitment to also care for women so that they may attain the health and wellness they need to thrive in every sphere of their lives – at home, at work and in the community.”
Ee added that Merck Malaysia has been supporting the ‘International Thyroid Awareness Week (ITAW)’ since 2009 and also co-chairs the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation’s (APEC) ‘Healthy Women, Healthy Economies’ initiative. Merck is the oldest pharmaceutical and chemical company in the world, and will be celebrating its 350th anniversary in 2018, a milestone occasion attesting to its dedication to science and technology.
In his briefing for the media, Professor Dr Nor Azmi Kamaruddin, chairman of the ‘Transform Your Life’ programme, described the thyroid as a small, butterfly-shaped gland, located at the base of the throat. The thyroid releases hormones that affect our metabolism and influences a host of related body functions. He explained that hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid is unable to produce sufficient thyroid hormone to meet the body’s needs.1
Prof Nor Azmi said: “Expectant mothers are particularly at risk because hypothyroidism is the most common thyroid disorder during pregnancy.2 Unfortunately, the symptoms of hypothyroidism might easily be dismissed as side effects of pregnancy, resulting in failure to detect the disorder.3
“When a pregnant woman with hypothyroidism is not treated at the early stage, it endangers both the mother and the child. She may experience high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and excessive weight gain.2,4,5 Her baby may develop learning difficulties and developmental problems. Hypothyroidism in pregnancy should not be taken lightly.”5,6
Prof Nor Azmi added that some women with normal-functioning thyroid glands may develop postpartum thyroiditis (PPT) within the first year of giving birth. He explained: “PPT refers to an inflammation of the thyroid gland. Sadly, it is difficult to recognise as the depression it causes is often masked by the stress of caring for a newborn and also postpartum mood disorders.7 Women with untreated PPT have a higher risk of developing permanent hypothyroidism in the following 5-10 years.”6
Shifting his focus to women over 60 years of age, Prof Nor Azmi stressed that the elderly are especially vulnerable. He said: “Hypothyroidism has been associated with increased cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood, thus raising the risk of ischaemic heart disease and heart failure.4,8 It may also cause muscle weakness, decreased memory, and slowed speech and thinking, while raising the women’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.4,8,9
“Unfortunately, it is not easy to diagnose hypothyroidism in the elderly. The classic symptoms of the disorder (such as constantly feeling intolerably cold, sudden weight gain, chronic constipation, and mental and physical slowing) are often mistaken as signs of normal ageing. The co-existence of multiple chronic diseases as well as side effects of medications further mimic or mask the symptoms of hypothyroidism.”8,10
In conclusion, Prof Nor Azmi recommended that all women should familiarise themselves with this disorder. He advised those who may be experiencing its signs and symptoms to get checked and seek treatment to break free from hypothyroidism. However, in this age of technology, we are often so busy, that even making a trip to see the doctor regarding our health concerns requires much planning.
This is why Merck has a very simple online ‘Hypothyroidism Symptom Checker Tool’. The tool can be accessed from the ‘Transform Your Life’ website at www.tyl.my or the programme Facebook page, ‘Transform Your Life – TYL’. By completing the checklist, users will be able to determine their risk of having hypothyroidism, before heading to the clinic.
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease. Hypothyroidism [Internet]. 2016. [cited 2016 Sep 14]. Available from: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/endocrine/hypothyroidism/Pages/fact-sheet.aspx
- Thyroid Screening in Pregnant Women. Putrajaya: Medical Development Division, Ministry of Health Malaysia. 2008 December.
- AACE Thyroid Awareness. The Thyroid and Pregnancy [Internet]. n.d. [cited 2016 Apr 28]. Available from: http://www.thyroidawareness.com/the-thyroid-and-pregnancy#top
- University of Maryland Medical Centre. Hypothyroidism [Internet]. 2016 [cited 2016 May 23]. Available from: http://umm.edu/health/medical/reports/articles/hypothyroidism
- Sahay RK, Nagesh VS. Hypothyroidism in pregnancy. Indian J Endocrinol Metab. 2012 May-Jun;16(3): 364–370
- Abalovich M, Amino N, Barbour LA, Cobin RH, De Groot LJ, Glinoer D, Mandel SJ, and Stagnaro-Green A. Management of Thyroid Dysfunction during Pregnancy and Postpartum: An Endocrine Society Clinical Practice Guideline. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. 2007. 92(8) (Supplement):S1–S47
- Mayo Clinic. Postpartum thyroiditis [Internet]. 2013 [cited 2016 May 17]. Available from: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseasesconditions/postpartumthyroiditis/basics/causes/con20035474
- Rehman SU, Cope DW, Senseney AD, Brzezinski W. Thyroid disorders in elderly patients. South Med J. 2005 May;98(5):543-9.
- Tan ZS, Beiser A, Vasan RS, Au R, Auerbach S, Kiel DP, Wolf PA, Seshadri S.Thyroid Function and the Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease: The Framingham Study. Arch Intern Med. 2008; 168(14): 1514–1520.
- Bensenor IM, Olmos RD, Lotufo PA. Hypothyroidism in the elderly: diagnosis and management. Clinical Interventions in Aging 2012:7 97–111.