While many thyroid diseases are treatable, they are often chronic conditions that require ongoing management. “Being a clinician of people with chronic diseases allows you to develop long-term relationships supporting people through their life journey,” he says.
“The most common problems we see are autoimmune thyroiditis with hypothyroidism, also known as Hashimoto’s disease, and Graves’ disease, which involves an overactive thyroid,” Kunwarjit says. “We also see a lot of patients who are sent to us with suspicious nodules to rule out thyroid malignancy.” While hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland produces insufficient thyroid hormone, hyperthyroidism occurs when it produces too much thyroid hormone.
Sometimes there can be challenges in battling misconceptions about the variety of thyroid conditions. According to Kunwarjit, understanding the effects of thyroid conditions on weight management can be confusing for some patients. “For example, a common misconception is that a person can’t lose weight with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or hypothyroidism. Actually, if the thyroid hormone replacement is correct then there is no reason you can’t lose weight,” he says.
On the other hand, avoiding treatment can also lead to more health complications. He says that it is a common misunderstanding that individuals with Graves’ disease can maintain their weight by not getting it treated. “Untreated Graves’ disease can cause heart problems including heart failure and heart rhythm issues,” he explains. “Besides this, it can also cause mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and insomnia.”
If you suspect there may be something going awry with your thyroid function, you should speak to your GP who can refer you to a specialist endocrinologist. While thyroid conditions can effect more than 1 in 10 Australians, the research and treatment of these conditions are improving every day.