January is Thyroid Awareness Month, and thyroid medication is among the most prescribed in the U.S.
Levothyroxine, a common thyroid supplement, is currently the second most filled drug at American pharmacies, according to data from GoodRx.
So, why is thyroid medication so popular?
Dr. Elizabeth Pearce, president of the American Thyroid Association and a professor at Boston University’s School of Medicine, says thyroid disorders, which affect the thyroid gland toward the bottom of the neck, particularly impact women, especially as they age.
“The vast majority of thyroid disease is in women,” she pointed out. “Hypothyroidism, which is 7 to 8 times more frequent in women than in men.”
Hypothyroidism, the most common thyroid disorder, is when the thyroid produces too little hormones. She says half of one percent of Americans suffer from hyperthyroidism, where the thyroid gland produces too much hormones.
According to Pearce, hypothyroidism affects one percent of the population enough to need thyroid supplements and five to 10 percent at a subclinical level, many of whom don’t need medication.
A blood test measuring TSH levels determines whether you have a thyroid disorder.
Pearce notes that thyroid cancer, which is usually treatable, is also on the rise.
“About 54,000 adults diagnosed with thyroid cancer in the U.S. in 2018, which means about one percent of individuals in the U.S. will be diagnosed with thyroid cancer in their lifetimes, based on current numbers,” she said.
Pearce pointed out the reasons why thyroid disease in the U.S. are on the rise are not well understood. One cause around the world is iodine deficiency, which hasn’t been a problem in the U.S. for about a century.
But Pearce says one important group has become more iodine deficient here in the last 10 years: pregnant women.
“Specifically for women who are planning pregnancy, or who are pregnant, or who are breastfeeding, the current recommendations are that those women should be taking a daily supplement containing 150 micrograms of iodine to make sure they’re getting what they need,” she said.
Some prenatal vitamins have iodine, but some don’t. Pearce also suggests taking this supplement because iodine deficiency is associated with lower IQ in fetal development.
Thankfully, most thyroid disorders are easily treated with supplements. For more information about thyroid disease, visit thyroid.org.
Via Commonwealth News Service.