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  • Life - Health & Wellness
  • Updated: May 25, 2024

Thyroid: Don’t stigmatise patients – Medical expert urges Nigerians

Thyroid: Don’t stigmatise patients – Medical expert urge

As the world marks Thyroid Day, a Consultant-General and Endocrine Surgeon, Dr Adefemi Afolabi has urged Nigerians not to stigmatise thyroid disease patients.

Afolabi, from the University College Hospital, Ibadan, said that thyroid diseases were non-communicable. He spoke in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Saturday in Ibadan.

Afolabi, also the Founder of the Thyroid Care Association of Nigeria, remarked that the theme of 2024 World Thyroid Day – “Thyroid Diseases are Non-Communicable Disease” – was apt.

He said that the commemoration would increase public awareness about thyroid diseases and their non-communicable nature.

“The patient, the family,  philanthropists,  non-government organisations, journalists and, more importantly, the government have roles to play in the regulation of care and improving our healthcare system to prevent diseases and improve the outcome of care.

“The theme emphasises that thyroid diseases are non-communicable like hypertension, diabetes mellitus, heart attack, heart failure, stroke, cancer, kidney diseases, epilepsy, etc.

“The occurrence of thyroid diseases in people who have any of these illnesses may make the outcome of care of either the thyroid disease or the pre-existing non-communicable disease worse.

“The World Health Organization set May 25 every year to commemorate the World Thyroid Day. This is to increase the awareness of the public about the thyroid gland and its diseases, prevention, treatment and improvement of the quality of life of patients.

“The Thyroid Care Association of Nigeria, a not-for-profit organisation, has its vision and mission in consonance with the objectives of the World Thyroid Day,” he said.

Afolabi said that thyroid diseases, mostly as enlargement of the thyroid gland described as a goitre, could occur at puberty, during pregnancy and during lactation which is one of the reasons it is commoner in the female gender.

He, however, said that thyroid diseases could also affect the male gender and all ages in both genders.

The consultant-general advised medical doctors to have a high level of suspicion for the diseases. He emphasised that early presentation is important.

He said that late presentation could result in poor outcome of care especially if the goitre turned out to be cancerous or if the non-cancerous goitre enlarged into the chest from the neck, causing difficulty in breathing.

“Its removal needs both the endocrine surgeon and the cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon, the anaesthetist, the nurses and other members of the surgical team,” he said.

The expert regretted that the lack of funds was a reason for the late presentation.

“We encourage members of the public to enrol into the federal or state health insurance scheme which substantially reduces how much they pay for treatment.

“The spiritual beliefs of the people may also cause late presentation.  We encourage the public to see an expert and apply their spiritual faith for a good outcome of care.

“We discourage application of local herbs or incisions that delay presentation. Everyone should know the disease they cannot treat and seek a second opinion.

“We also encourage the public that, in the hands of experts, surgery on the thyroid gland is very safe, provided patients comply with instructions such as the use of medications which may be necessary before surgery,” he said.

According to him, compliance with other treatments such as replacement thyroxine, radioiodine and other medications is also important.

“The health insurance pathway, philanthropy, improvement in the healthcare system, adequate salary and allowances to healthcare providers will ensure a good outcome of treatment,” Afolabi said. 

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