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Thyroid disorders in India: An epidemiological perspective

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      Thyroid diseases are common worldwide. In India too, there is a significant burden of thyroid diseases. According to a projection from various studies on thyroid disease, it has been estimated that about 42 million people in India suffer from thyroid diseases. This review will focus on the epidemiology of five common thyroid diseases in India: (1) hypothyroidism, (2) hyperthyroidism, (3) goiter and iodine deficiency disorders, (4) Hashimoto's thyroiditis, and (5) thyroid cancer. This review will also briefly cover the exciting work that is in progress to ascertain the normal reference range of thyroid hormones in India, especially in pregnancy and children.

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      Establishment of reference range for thyroid hormones in normal pregnant Indian women.

      Interpretation of thyroid function tests during pregnancy needs trimester-related reference intervals from pregnant populations with minimal risk for thyroid dysfunction. While India has become iodine sufficient after two decades of salt iodisation, there is no normative data for thyroid function from healthy pregnant women of this country. To determine trimester-specific reference ranges for free triiodothyronine (FT(3)), free thyroxine (FT(4)) and thyrotropin (TSH) from healthy pregnant Indian women. Cross-sectional study in a reference population of pregnant women. Primary care level obstetric department in India. Women with uncomplicated pregnancy in any trimester. Five hundred and forty-one apparently healthy pregnant women with uncomplicated single intrauterine gestations reporting to the Armed Forces Clinic in any trimester were consecutively recruited. Clinical examination, thyroid ultrasound for echogenicity and nodularity and estimation of FT(3), FT(4), TSH and antithyroid antibodies (antithyroperoxidase [anti-TPO] and antithyroglobulin [anti-Tg]) using electrochemiluminescence technique were carried out. From this entire sample, a disease- and risk-free reference population was obtained by excluding those with any known factor that could affect thyroid function or those who were being treated for thyroid dysfunction. None. Of the 541 consecutive pregnant women in different trimesters enrolled for the study, 210 women were excluded. The composition of reference population comprising 331 women was 107 in first trimester, 137 in second trimester and 87 in third trimester. The 5th and 95th percentiles values were used to determine the reference ranges for FT(3), FT(4) and TSH. The trimester-wise values in the first, second and third trimesters were: FT(3) (1.92-5.86, 3.2-5.73 and 3.3-5.18 pM/l), FT(4) (12-19.45, 9.48-19.58 and 11.32-17.7 pM/l) and TSH (0.6-5.0, 0.44-5.78 and 0.74-5.7 iu/ml), respectively. Analysis of mean, median values for FT(3), FT(4) and TSH between each trimester showed no significant difference in FT(3) and TSH values (95% CI). However, FT(4) showed significant variation between trimesters with values decreasing with advancing gestational age (P value: first versus second = 0.015, first versus third = 0.003 and second versus third = not significant). Women with antibody positivity and hypoechogenicity of thyroid gland had significantly higher TSH values when compared with women with antibody negativity and normoechogenicity. Reference ranges of FT(3), FT(4) and TSH have been established for pregnant Indian women using 5th and 95th percentiles.
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        High prevalence of undetected thyroid disorders in an iodine sufficient adult south Indian population.

        India is in the transition phase from iodine deficiency to iodine sufficiency, and this is expected to change the thyroid status of the population. The thyroid status and auto-immune status of adult Indian population in the postiodisation phase is largelyunknown, and this study was conducted to answer this question. A cross-sectional population survey was conducted in two phases among the residents of urban coastal area of central Kerala. The initial phase included a house-to-house survey of 3069 adults (>18 years of age), selected by cluster sampling method. From the surveyed population, 986 subjects underwent further physical examination and biochemical evaluation for thyroid function, thyroid autoimmunity status and iodine status. The total prevalence of goitre was 12.2% and median urine iodine excretion was 211.4 mcg/l (mean 220.3 +/- 99.5 mcg/l) indicating iodine sufficiency. Thyroid function abnormalities were present in 19.6% of subjects. Subclinical hypothyroidism was present in 9.4%. Among the population with normal thyroid function, 9.5% and 8.5% respectively had positive anti-TPO and anti-TG antibodies. Among those with thyroid dysfunction, 46.3% had positive anti-TPO and 26.8% were anti-TG positive. A significant proportion of this iodine-sufficient adult population had thyroid disorders. Further studies are required to characterise the reasons for this high prevalence. Iodine deficiency as well as thyroid dysfunction should both be the focus of public health strategies in susceptible populations.
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          Hashimoto's thyroiditis: countrywide screening of goitrous healthy young girls in postiodization phase in India.

          Countrywide salt iodization, to prevent nutritional iodine deficiency, has been achieved in India recently. The current study was planned to evaluate the prevalence of goiter and thyroid autoimmunity and assess thyroid functional status in a cohort of 6283 healthy schoolgirls from different parts of the country in the postiodization phase. Goitrous girls (n = 1810; 28% of subjects) were investigated for serum T4 and TSH, antithyroid microsomal antibody (TMA) and antithyroglobulin antibody (TGA), urinary iodine excretion, and cytomorphology by fine-needle aspiration cytology (FNAC). FNAC carried out successfully in 764 goitrous girls revealed juvenile autoimmune thyroiditis (JAT) in 58 (7.5%), which included Hashimoto's thyroiditis in 43 (5.6%) and focal lymphocytic thyroiditis in 15 (1.9%). TMA and TGA estimated in 722 goitrous girls detected significantly positive titers of TMA (> or =1:1600) and TGA (> or =1:160) in 52 (7.2%) and 4 (0.55%) girls, respectively. Only 29 (67.4%) girls with Hashimoto's thyroiditis were TMA positive. In patients with FNAC-proven JAT, overt clinical and biochemical hypothyroidism was seen in three (6.5%) and subclinical hypothyroidism in seven (15%). Subclinical hyperthyroidism was detected in 5.1% cases of JAT, and none had overt hyperthyroidism. No definite correlation was seen between urinary iodine excretion and thyroid autoimmunity.

            Author and article information

            Department of Endocrinology, Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences, Cochin, Kerala, India
            Author notes
            Corresponding Author: Dr. A. G. Unnikrishnan, Department of Endocrinology, Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences, Cochin, Kerala, India. E-mail: unnikrishnanag@
            Indian J Endocrinol Metab
            Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism
            Medknow Publications (India )
            July 2011
            : 15
            : Suppl2
            : S78-S81
            Copyright: © Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism

            This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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