Debunking top 5 myths around thyroid disorders #ThyroidHealthIsCrucial
The thyroid gland is a vital organ that controls the metabolism, growth, and development of your body. It is butterfly-shaped and located on the front of your neck, at the base just below Adam’s apple. This gland produces two hormones, triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), through which it regulates various body functions. A matter of grave concern is that the statistics are showing a steady rise in thyroid diseases in the Indian population. At large, thyroid diseases include hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), goiter, thyroid cancer, and thyroid nodules. According to an epidemiological study on thyroid disease*, it has been estimated that about 42 million people in India suffer from thyroid diseases, and hypothyroidism happens to be the most common thyroid disease. Even though thyroid disorders are common, people have many misconceptions about them. Here we are debunking 5 top myths about thyroid conditions: Myth #1: Thyroid disease gives you obvious symptoms, hence is easy to get diagnosed. Fact: You may have thyroid disease but not have any symptoms. In fact, the symptoms can be subtle and get easily overlooked. In addition, symptoms of thyroid disease include weight gain or loss, fatigue, and diarrhea or constipation, irregular periods, etc., which are quite common and could occur due to other health issues too. Due to the subtlety and overlap, it can be tricky to diagnose thyroid disease. Your best bet to keep track of your thyroid health and hormone levels is a thyroid panel test. It is a simple blood test that can identify thyroid problems before symptoms occur. Do not wait for symptoms to get a test done, especially if you have a family history of thyroid conditions. Myth #2: Low thyroid hormone levels (hypothyroidism) affect women only. Fact: While it is true that far more women develop under-active thyroid than men, it is not uncommon for men to be diagnosed with hypothyroidism. If you are a man with a family history of hypothyroidism, do not ignore the possibility of developing the condition. If you're healthy, both men and women should get their thyroid function tests done every five years. However, you may need to get tested more often depending on the presence of risk factors (like being female, having age over 60 years, family history, having an autoimmune disease). If you have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, get tested once every two to three months for the first year till the hormone levels stabilize and treatment is optimized. After this, an annual check will suffice unless you develop new symptoms or experience reappearance of any old symptom. Myth #3: You can stop your thyroid medicines when the symptoms get better. Fact: Not at all! Your symptoms have got better because your medicines are helping you. Stick to your prescription and do not stop having medicines unless advised by your doctor. Stopping your medicines can cause your symptoms to return. Remember, thyroid medicine works best when taken on an empty stomach, spaced an hour before the meal. Myth #4: People with a thyroid disorder should not eat cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, etc. Fact: The claim that cruciferous vegetables including broccoli, cauliflower, etc. can worsen thyroid conditions has arisen from the thought that these veggies interfere with how your thyroid uses iodine. Iodine is important for hormone production in the thyroid gland. But the fact is, practically these are part of balanced nutrition and only an unrealistic excessive intake might cause any interference with iodine. So you can (and should) consume cabbage, cauliflower, and other veggies of the same group, even if you have a thyroid disorder. Myth #5: Hypothyroidism is always caused due to an underlying autoimmune condition. Fact: Though the most common cause of hypothyroidism (low thyroid levels) is an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, it isn’t the sole cause. Other factors like genetics, problems with the pituitary gland (regulates signal for the production of thyroid hormones), certain medicines can also cause a decline in your thyroid hormone levels. However, it is possible to track if Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is the cause in your case. This is an autoimmune condition, which means the body’s own immune system is attacking the healthy thyroid cells through certain antibodies. These thyroid antibodies can be traced through a simple lab test called a thyroid antibody test. This test looks for various types of thyroid antibodies like thyroid per oxidase antibody (TPO), thyroglobulin antibody (TGAb), thyroid-stimulating hormone receptor antibodies (TSHRAb). It is important to know the cause to get the right treatment and relieve thyroid symptoms. Hope we have cleared the clouds you had in your mind around thyroid diseases. Do not hesitate to mention any symptoms to your doctor. Ensure to get your hormone levels checked on a regular basis and keep a check on your thyroid health.
Hepatitis: Symptoms, types, causes, tests, and treatment
Hepatitis is a condition that refers to the inflammation of the liver, which is a large organ located on the right side of your belly. The liver is a vital organ that filters blood in your body and breaks down toxic and external substances, such as alcohol and medicines. It also produces bile, which helps in the digestion of fats and takes away the waste. Symptoms: How do you know if you have hepatitis? Hepatitis can be acute or chronic. While chronic forms might continue damaging the liver without giving any signs at the beginning or very subtle signs if at all, acute inflammation of the liver causes signs and symptoms to appear quickly.Symptoms of hepatitis include: Pain in the abdomen Loss of appetite Unexplained weight loss Signs of jaundice like yellow skin and eyes Fatigue and malaise Dark urine Pale stool Think your unhealthy eating practices are putting you at risk of developing liver problems? Do not wait for symptoms to show, keep a check on your liver health with a liver function test. Book here. Causes: What can give you hepatitis? Most cases of hepatitis are caused due to a viral infection. There can be other possible causes of liver inflammation too, such as autoimmune hepatitis, alcohol, illicit drugs, and certain medicine. Autoimmune hepatitis means your body is making antibodies against your liver tissue. Viral infections of the liver: Viral hepatitis can be of 5 types depending on the different types of viruses that are responsible for its transmission, namely hepatitis A virus (HAV), hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), hepatitis D virus (HDV), and hepatitis E virus (HCV). Hepatitis A: Hepatitis A virus (HAV) is most commonly transmitted by consuming food or water contaminated by feces from a person infected with hepatitis A. Hepatitis B: Hepatitis B virus spreads through contact with body fluids, such as blood, vaginal secretions, or semen, infected with HBV. Sexual act with an infected partner, injection drug use, or sharing razors with an infected person puts you at risk of getting hepatitis B. Hepatitis C: Hepatitis C virus is contracted in ways similar to HBV- through direct contact with infected body fluids via injection drug use and sexual contact. Hepatitis D: Hepatitis D virus is transmitted through direct contact with infected blood. It is noteworthy that hepatitis D only occurs in conjunction with hepatitis B infection since the HDV cannot multiply in absence of HBV. Hepatitis E: Hepatitis E virus spreads through contaminated water. It is prevalent in areas with poor sanitation. Noninfectious hepatitis: Alcohol: Alcohol is a major determinant of liver health. Excessive alcohol consumption can cause liver damage and inflammation often called alcoholic hepatitis. Other causes: Overuse or overdose of certain medications and exposure to poisons can also damage your liver cells. Autoimmune disease: Your body’s defense system mistakenly damages the liver cells. This results in ongoing inflammation, often interfering with liver function. Tests for hepatitis: How is hepatitis diagnosed? First and foremost, your doctor will examine you to take a medical history and understand your symptoms. Along with the physical examination, you may be advised to undergo certain tests to confirm the condition. Liver function tests: A liver function test is a simple blood test. It checks the most basic parameters that tell how efficiently your liver works. Any abnormality in the results serves as the first-level indication of a problem, much before the symptoms appear. Ultrasound: An abdominal ultrasound allows your doctor to take a close look at the internal images of your liver and nearby organs. This can reveal internal signs like fluid in your abdomen and liver enlargement, that are otherwise difficult to be diagnosed. Other blood tests: Your doctor might also recommend blood tests other than liver function tests to identify the source of the problem. While some tests can check for the hepatitis viruses, a few look for antibodies commonly found in autoimmune hepatitis. Liver biopsy: This is a procedure in which a sample of tissue is taken from your liver and tested for any abnormality. Please note that biopsy does not require surgery. Treatment: How is hepatitis treated? Your treatment options will be determined by the type of hepatitis you are affected with and whether the infection is acute or chronic. Hepatitis A: It is a short-term illness and generally does not require treatment. The condition is self-limiting with adequate bed rest, optimum hydration, and nutritious food. Hepatitis B: No specific treatment is needed for acute cases. You will get antiviral medicines for chronic hepatitis B. It can be continued for several months or years. Hepatitis C: Antiviral medicines will be required to treat both acute and chronic forms of hepatitis C. Those people who develop liver scarring (cirrhosis) due to chronic hepatitis C might need a liver transplant as well. Hepatitis D and E: Specific antiviral agents do not exist for the treatment of hepatitis D as yet. Hepatitis E might also resolve on its own without needing any specific medical treatment. Autoimmune hepatitis: Early treatment includes corticosteroids, such as prednisone or budesonide. They have been found to be beneficial in around 80% of people affected with this condition. In addition to steroids, other drugs that suppress the immune system might also work. These medicines include azathioprine, mycophenolate, tacrolimus, and cyclosporine. Alcoholic hepatitis: Liver inflammation caused due to excessive alcohol consumption is usually reversible with complete cessation of drinking. Medical therapies can help ease the signs and symptoms of liver damage. However, if the liver damage is severe, it cannot be reversed and is life-threatening. The Final word You can protect your liver against hepatitis by taking certain precautions. Vaccination against hepatitis A and B can be the easiest way to guard against infectious viruses. Practice safe sex and say no to alcohol. Make sure to show extra care to this vital organ through regular lab tests and medical evaluation. Looking to book health tests and home sample collection? End your search with Metropolis home visit service.
COVID new variant: Will vaccines be effective? And more FAQs answered
Crossing a year now, the pandemic has been changing a lot in our lives. With some new terms joining in every day, thankfully there isn’t much add-on to the most common symptoms like fever, dry cough, and breathing difficulty. Some patients also showed signs of taste and smell loss, nasal congestion, sore throat, nausea, severe headache, etc among others. But just when we started taking it lightly, scientists discovered a new variant of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, and since then, other variants have been identified and are under investigation. News about the characteristics of these variants is rapidly emerging and scientists are working to learn more about how easily they commute, whether they could cause more severe illness, and whether currently authorized vaccines are effective to safeguard people against them. We are in this together. Make sure to get tested for COVID-19 if you have any symptoms suggestive of the illness. Book a home sample collection here.The virus that causes COVID-19 belongs to a large family of viruses- named after the crown-like spikes prevalent on their surfaces. While scientists are constantly monitoring the changes in the virus, there is a lot going on in our heads around how virus mutation might affect its spread from one person to the other and what happens to people who get affected by it. Here, we have answered some of the most common questions about the new COVID variants including will the COVID-19 vaccines still do their intended job, are there new or different things one should do now to keep their family safe? And a bit about the double mutant virus. What do we know of the new variants so far? With a new variant of the virus popping up every now and then, even scientists are in a fix as to their rapid emergence, or whether or not they are riskier than the already existing ones. Like all viruses evolve over a period of time, so does the SARS CoV-2 virus. When any virus replicates itself, it mutates i.e. it changes a little. A virus then with one or more new mutations is known as a variant of that original virus. There are now multiple variants of the Covid virus: Beginning fall of 2020, the United Kingdom reported a new variant B.1.1.7, which was considered to be more infectious in comparison to the other existing variants, and it has been reported in India too. Another one is the variant from South Africa, called B.1.351. Though initial understanding explains higher viral load for this particular variant, deeper insights on the severity, its transmission, and diagnostics, etc are still being explored. This South African virus has to date been reported in four countries. P.1, a new variant from Brazil was detected in travelers from Brazil in Japan in January this year. It contains mutations that affect the variants’ traceability by the antibodies. The double mutant COVID variant A "double variant" of the novel coronavirus has been traced by Indian genome researchers in western Maharashtra. In the current scenario, the analysis has shown that the positive samples reported both E484Q and L452R mutations. These double mutants are likely to escape the immune system and confer increased infectivity," as stated by the health ministry said in a statement. What various tests can be conducted to know if a person has a new COVID variant? The COVID-19 RT-PCR continues to remain the gold standard diagnostic test. The samples are collected from the person’s nose and throat with the help of a cotton swab. It is then sent for testing the viral genetic material. The positive result conveys about the COVID-19 infection but not about the variant that has caused the infection. If you want to check if you have had a COVID-19 infection in the past, get an antibody test done. Is the current COVID-19 vaccine effective against these new variants? While there has been a lot of research going on in this regard, most experts say, the current COVID-19 vaccines are at least expected to provide some protection against these new variants. The vaccines elicit a broad immune system that covers a multitude of antibodies and cells. Even if a few of the running COVID-19 vaccines prove ineffective, scientists predict they will be able to alter the composition of the vaccine to protect patients from the new variants. The WHO has set up a dedicated SARS CoV-2 risk monitoring and evaluation framework team to identify and keep a check on the virus variants. They research, evaluate the impact, collect data and analyze the variants in and out in order to be a guiding light for vaccine manufactures around countries. What measures can be taken to prevent the new variants of the Coronavirus? Though people may expect some relief from the pandemic with the onset of the vaccination drive, one must not take it lightly. The precautions still remain the same as what was guided since day one, namely social distancing, avoiding crowded gatherings, wearing a mask at all times, coughing or sneezing onto your elbow, and washing/ sanitizing your hands often. These are basic safety measures that the whole population, either vaccinated or not vaccinated, needs to follow to keep us safe from catching the virus especially when we don’t know who all are infected. With a surge in cases nationwide, make sure all of us get our elderly and high-risk people vaccinated. The virus still can be detrimental if caught by those who have preexisting medical conditions, elderly people, or anyone who has a compromised immune system. While it is assumed that we can encounter the second wave in India, follow the measures as recommended by the health experts- get tested well within time, isolate if tested positive, and let us ensure to care for each other at a distance.
Looking to cut back on sugar: Should you switch to jaggery?
Jaggery is an unrefined sugar product popularly known as ‘Gur’ in India. It is becoming popular as a healthy replacement for refined sugar and often referred to as a superfood sweetener. Although both sugar and jaggery are obtained from sugarcane juice, they differ in terms of their properties and benefits. Though many people believe jaggery is better when compared with sugar, is it worth replacing refined white sugar with jaggery? Even before switching your sweetener, get aware about your HbA1c values and take charge of your blood sugar levels. Book HbA1c test here.There is always a sugar vs jaggery war going on that often tends to confuse us. Should you switch to jaggery? Let’s explore the health benefits of jaggery first to reach the conclusion. Greater nutritional value According to one source, 100 grams of jaggery may contain 383 Calories, 65–85 grams sucrose, 10-15 grams fructose and glucose, 0.4 grams protein, 0.1 grams fat, 11 mg iron, 70-90 mg magnesium, 1050 mg potassium, 0.2–0.5 mg manganese. Jaggery may also contain small amounts of vitamin B and minerals, including zinc, calcium, selenium, phosphorus, and copper. These micronutrients have many nutritional and medicinal aspects. Keeps your gut healthy In India, eating a piece of jaggery daily after meals is common. Some people claim jaggery helps with digestion by stimulating the secretion of digestive enzymes. It can stimulate bowel movements, making it a good choice for preventing constipation and flatulence. Prevents anemia Jaggery is quite rich in iron and folate and it helps in the prevention of anemia. Some studies suggest that the body can use iron in non-centrifugal sugars more easily than iron from other plant sources. Boosts immunity Minerals like zinc and selenium present in jaggery can help prevent cell damage caused by free-radicals. The phenol in jaggery can fight off oxidative stress and relax your body, hence building stronger immunity. Jaggery can even help alleviate the symptoms of common cold and flu. Tackles water retention The potassium in jaggery can help manage electrolyte balance in the body. This can further reduce water retention in the body tissues. Detox the liver Jaggery acts as a detox as it helps in cleansing the liver by flushing out nasty toxins from the body. Eases menstrual pain Jaggery can help as a natural remedy for menstrual problems. The sweetness of jaggery releases endorphins, which offer relief in cramps, premenstrual syndrome, depression, and anxiety. So it is advised to eat a small piece of jaggery daily to avoid sudden mood swings just before your period. It also helps reduce associated bloating and water retention. Relieves joint pain Eating jaggery can provide you with much-needed relief from aches and pain in your joints. It is claimed that drinking a glass of milk with jaggery daily can help strengthen the bones, thus preventing joint and bone problems such as arthritis. Controls blood pressure Since jaggery is rich in minerals like potassium and sodium, it plays an important role in the maintenance of acid levels in the body. It helps in maintaining a normal level of blood pressure. Prevents respiratory problems Although it is not clear how, jaggery also has known to show anti-asthmatic properties, eliminating the toxins and any mucus out of the respiratory system and easing breathing difficulties. People claim that it can prevent many respiratory problems such as asthma, bronchitis, cough, and chest congestion by cleansing the passage, etc. Experts recommend eating jaggery with sesame seeds for wonderful benefits for the respiratory system. In a nutshell, jaggery is said to help support immune, digestive, bones, liver, lungs and menstrual health, as well as help, prevent asthma and anemia. However, there is no good evidence available that can support these claims. A word of caution Although sugar and jaggery differ in their nutritional profile, you must know that both the sweeteners have nearly the same calorific value. A 100 grams of sugar releases approximately 398 kcal of energy, while the same amount of jaggery delivers 383 kcal. So, the true danger of these sweeteners, be it sugar or jaggery lies in its excessive consumption. Eating too much sugar from any source can increase your risk of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. Moderation is the key. Do keep in mind that overindulgence of anything is detrimental to your health. It is important to note that jaggery must be consumed in a limited quantity to avail of its complete health benefits. On average, one should not eat more than two teaspoons of jaggery per day. Jaggery for diabetics? A common misconception about jaggery is that it could be safely consumed by diabetic patients. Interestingly, a study showed that jaggery and sugar when consumed, both raise blood glucose levels by approximately equal values. So, frequent use of jaggery is certainly not recommended for a diabetic person. Diabetic patients are strongly advised to consult a healthcare provider before including jaggery in their daily diet. Take home message You’ll get in a few extra nutrients as jaggery contains more nutrients than refined sugar. Refined white sugar contains only empty calories, i.e., calories without any vitamins or minerals. It is safe to say that swapping sugar with jaggery is a healthier option- as long as you don’t overdo it. Remember, jaggery is essentially still sugar and any extra nutrients you get to come with a lot of calories. So, one should use it very sparingly. In order to cut down on sugar, it is very important to lower sugar intake gradually. You can opt for natural sugars, such as the ones found in fruits to satisfy your sweet cravings. Other substitutes for white sugar can be stevia, date, or palm sugar. Artificial sweeteners can be attractive substitutes for sugar because they add virtually no calories to your diet.
Important lab tests during pregnancy
Lab tests are part of routine health care during pregnancy. Few of these tests are performed with a blood sample while others use a urine sample or a sample of tissue taken from your vagina, cervix, or rectum. These tests called prenatal tests are designed with the primary goal to help your health care provider find out how you and your baby are doing during pregnancy. The different kinds of tests available for pregnant women include: Tests to confirm pregnancy Routine screening tests, which can assess mother’s health along with baby’s health status Maternal health screening used to identify specific disease and infection increasing the risk of complications for you and your baby Diagnostic tests done for high-risk pregnancies. The different phases of pregnancy will need different types of tests to track mother’s and baby’s health. Various lab tests required for various phases of pregnancy are discussed below. Screening in First Trimester of Pregnancy Although the following tests are conducted in early pregnancy, your doctor can request you these lab tests at any time of the pregnancy. Complete blood count Complete blood picture can determine the counts of different types of cells including red blood cells (RBCs), white blood cells (WBCs), and platelets The number of RBCs can detect whether you have a certain type of anemia and determine the status of iron, vitamin B12, and folate deficiency The number of WBCs can determine how many disease-fighting cells you have in your blood, indicative of an infection in the body The number of platelets can show whether you have a problem with blood clotting. Blood group and Rhesus compatibility screening The results of blood group ABO and Rh typing will figure out if the woman is type A, B, AB, or O and if they are Rh negative or positive Identifying the ABO blood group is highly important in pregnant women so as to ascertain your blood group for emergencies like heavy bleeding at the time of birth Besides, knowledge of the Rhesus (Rh) factor of the mother is crucial so as to determine Rh compatibility with the growing baby. The Rh factor is an inherited protein found on the surface of red blood cells (RBCs). If your RBCs have the protein, you are Rh positive. If you RBCs lacks the protein, you are Rh negative. Rh incompatibility occurs if a woman is Rh-negative and her fetus is Rh positive, the woman’s body can make antibodies against the Rh factor These antibodies can damage the fetus’s RBCs This usually does not cause problems in a first pregnancy, when the body makes only a small number of antibodies However, it can cause issues in a subsequent pregnancy In cases of Rh incompatibility, most women will be given a shot of Rh-immune globulin at 28 weeks and again a few days after delivery. Rubella antibody status All pregnant women should be monitored for rubella antibodies If rubella virus infects a developing fetus in thefirst 16 weeks of pregnancy, affected babies will have severe birth defects including deafness, eye defects, heart defects, mental retardation The risk of complications decreases if the infection occurs after 20 weeks gestation The goal of the test is to recognize women who have not been immunized or have reduced immunity and have higher chances of contracting rubella However, non-immune mothers should not be vaccinated during their pregnancy and should receive the vaccination after giving birth in order to protect future pregnancies. Screening for sexually transmitted infections Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can cause complications for you and your baby All pregnant women should be tested for syphilis and chlamydia early in pregnancy. The screening is important, as a baby born to mothers infected with syphilis can be stillborn You can also be evaluated for gonorrhea, if you are 25 or younger. Infants born to mothers infected with hepatitis B will become carriers and have a higher likelihood of developing chronic liver disease, including cirrhosis, liver cancer, etc. Prevention of transmission of hepatitis B virus from mother to infant is achieved by administration of hepatitis B vaccine and immunoglobulin to the infant at birth. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) screening is crucial and all pregnant women should be screened for HIV Women who are HIV positive will be given treatment in order to decrease the risk of HIV being transmitted to their infant Measures to reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV infection include antiretroviral therapy, elective cesarean section delivery, and the avoidance of breastfeeding. Additionally, if a pregnant woman is believed to be at risk for HIV, hepatitis C screening should also be considered. Maternal serum screening/ Dual marker test Pregnancy-associated plasma protein-A screening (PAPP-A) is done in early pregnancy, and its abnormal levels are linked to a higher risk for chromosomal defects Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is a hormone made by the placenta in early pregnancy. Its abnormal levels are associated with chromosomal issues Both these tests in combination have a greater potential to diagnose genetic birth defects such as Down syndrome (trisomy 21) and trisomy 18 in the developing baby. Book your first trimester maternal serum screening dual marker test here. Apart from these screenings in the first trimester, testing for varicella antibody status in pregnant women even with no history of illness or vaccination should be considered. Vitamin D screening of mothers is also important, as vitamin D is required for normal bone growth development in the fetus. Screening in Second Trimester of Pregnancy Screening at 26–28 weeks’ gestation mainly includes another round of complete blood count, blood group of antibodies, and glucose tolerance test. Glucose tolerance test A glucose screening test is used to determine gestational diabetes, a temporary condition that develops during pregnancy Although this disease usually disappears after the baby is born, women who develop gestational diabetes have a higher possibility of developing type 2 diabetes later in life Gestational diabetes can increase your chances of needing a cesarean delivery as babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes are usually born larger. Test for Urine infection All pregnant women should have a midstream urine culture at first and again at the second trimester and then at 36 weeks gestation, to exclude a sub-clinical urine infection. Alpha-fetoprotein screening (AFP) This blood test, also known as MSAFP (maternal serum AFP) measures the level of alpha-fetoprotein in your blood during pregnancy. Abnormal levels of AFP may indicate: Open neural tube defects like spina bifida Down syndrome Complications in the abdominal wall of the fetus Twins An incorrect due date. Most of the times, the doctor can advise a triple marker test because it looks at the levels of AFP, and two pregnancy hormones, estriol and hCG to determine the presence of any chromosomal abnormalities in the baby. Screening in Third Trimester of Pregnancy Group B streptococcus test Group B streptococcus (GBS) is most commonly found in the vagina and rectum of women and can pass from a pregnant woman to her baby during labor Although this occurs rarely to 1 or 2 babies out of 100, GBS can lead to severe neonatal infection or sepsis Hence, taking a vaginorectal culture at 35 to 37 weeks gestation can rule out GBS infection. Prenatal screening tests act as a vital source of information for pregnant women. These tests are periodically done to evaluate women’s and baby’s health, and the presence of any pathological condition. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns if you are not sure if you should be screened or if you are feeling anxious. Have a happy pregnancy!