Thyroid disorders are particularly harmful for older people, people with cardiovascular disease and pregnant women. For example, pregnant women with thyroid disorders are more likely to experience miscarriage and impaired fetal development.
They are also a risk factor for other non-communicable diseases (NCDs). For example, in comparison with healthy adults, people with hyperthyroidism a 38% higher chance of developing heart disease. This rises to an 89% higher chance of developing heart disease for people with hypothyroidism.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism include weight gain, fatigue, depression, memory problems, muscle weakness and impaired development in children. Hyperthyroidism, meanwhile, may have symptoms such as sudden weight loss, fatigue, mood swings, rapid heartbeat, increased appetite, muscle weakness and heat intolerance.
Timely detection and treatment are crucial. Testing is reliable and relatively inexpensive as thyroid hormone levels are assessed via a blood test. But awareness of thyroid disorders is low and delays to diagnosis are common.
Thyroid disorders are a public health issue impacting maternal and child health, NCD reduction and healthy ageing. As people age and live with multiple health conditions, early detection and optimal treatment of thyroid disorders will become increasingly essential.
Latin American countries face specific challenges in tackling thyroid disorders, not least because data on the health and economic burden are limited and fragmented. In addition, obesity is on the rise in Latin America, and often coexists with hypothyroidism, but the complex association between the two conditions can make it difficult to identify hypothyroidism in people with obesity.