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New Horizons in Thyroid Health: Recent Research Findings That Could Expand Your Thyroid Treatment Options
For centuries, the role of the thyroid was not fully understood. In fact, it was not until the last several decades that researchers began to grasp the full significance of the thyroid and the scope of its impact on overall health and well-being.
Although this recognition was a long time coming, the renewed focus on thyroid health in recent decades has opened up the floodgates of research and experimental studies. Today, potentially important findings pertaining to thyroid health are being announced on an ongoing basis.
Indeed, the fast pace of advancement in the field can make it difficult for patients to keep pace. But in order to be an effective advocate for yourself or the thyroid patient in your life, it’s important to try to stay on top of the latest findings in order to ensure that you are receiving the best treatment possible for your particular disorder.
Today, we’ll take a look at some of the most significant research findings that have been recently announced by scientists investigating various aspects of thyroid health.
Prematurity and Small Body Size in Childhood May Predict Hypothyroidism Risk
Researchers in Finland analyzed the birth records and childhood growth charts of adult women who developed hypothyroidism as adults. It was found that those who had been born prematurely or who were of below-average size during childhood were at greater risk of suddenly developing hypothyroidism as adults. The researchers point out that this information could be used to screen those at greatest risk for the disease.
Hypothyroidism Can Have Grave Implications for Women’s Reproductive Health
A team of Czechoslovakian researchers analyzed the reproductive and gynecological effects of slow thyroid function. According to their findings, the impacts of hypothyroidism are significant, perhaps even more widespread than previously suspected. They determined that as many as one-quarter of all cases of infertility may be related to thyroid problems. In addition, the researchers estimated that 15% of menstrual abnormalities could have their roots in thyroid disorders.
Occupational Exposure to Radiation Increases Workers’ Thyroid Risks
Several recent studies have sought to identify the possible environmental causes of thyroid disorders. One study found that workers in nuclear power plants were at particularly high risk for developing thyroid disorders. The most pronounced risk was in elevation of serum thyrotropin (TSH) levels. The scientists recommended more research on the environmental and occupational factors that could impact thyroid health.
Exposure to Tobacco Smoke May Pose a Risk for Thyroid Health
It has long been known that tobacco use can impact thyroid function, but a team of Greek researchers recently discovered that exposure to second-hand smoke may also have a deleterious effect on thyroid health. After a group of healthy women with normal thyroid function were exposed to several hours of second-hand smoke, it was found that all of their measurable thyroid functions had increased significantly. The researchers recommend that this environmental factor should be considered in cases of hyperthyroidism and related disorders.
Hypothyroidism During and After Pregnancy
One of the most significant findings in recent years is the degree to which hypothyroidism occurs in women who are pregnant or have recently given birth. Although this risk has long been known, studies conducted in the last several years have indicated that pregnancy-related thyroid disorders may be far more common than previously thought. A team of English researchers found that current testing methods drastically underestimated the hypothyroid risks of pregnancy; as many as 33% of pregnant and postpartum women with thyroid problems were not identified using standard diagnosis techniques.
Hyperthyroidism Linked to Hypertension in Some Patients
An Australian research team conducted a large-scale community study to determine the nature of the relationship between thyroid disorders and elevated blood pressure. Although no link was found between hypothyroidism and hypertension, it was found that people with heightened thyroid function were more likely to have high blood pressure. The researchers suggested that blood pressure may be used as a preliminary screening tool for detecting hyperthyroidism.
Outpatient Thyroid Surgery Safe for Most Patients
A team of researchers in Augusta, GA found that many of the most common types of thyroid surgery could be conducted on an outpatient basis. In a longitudinal analysis of post-surgery outcomes, they found that the recovery and safety of those released from the hospital immediately after surgery equaled or even exceeded that of patients who were admitted for an overnight stay. According to the researchers, this finding could significantly diminish the cost of thyroid surgery for many patients, with average savings estimated to be $2000 or more in most areas of the United States.
Staying Informed Can Help You Stay Healthy
Although your physician bears the primary responsibility of staying abreast of recent research developments that might impact your treatment, it can’t hurt to keep yourself informed, as well. Make a habit of browsing thyroid research sites to find out about the latest findings. For a targeted search, you can set up a Google alert that will automatically inform you of news pertaining to your specific disorder. Also, watch this space for future updates on the latest in thyroid health research.
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Note: The contents of this blog are for informational purposes only and are not intended to be construed as medical advice or as a substitute for professional care. This site should not be used in place of professional medical advice. The author is not a physician. For medical emergencies, call 911!
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