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COVID-19: What do people with a thyroid disease have to know?

By Anastasiia Petrenko

Even though many great things have already happened in 2020 and some are yet to come, most of the people will remember it as a year of the COVID-19 outbreak. Since the pandemic began, we have been surrounded by daily sensational and alarming updates on viruses’ origin, features, symptoms, treatments, and so on. Articles get published and retrieved in a week, guidelines change so rapidly that now, in September, it is hard to recall what they actually recommend for COVID-19 treatment. On some point, you could have felt frustrated on what exactly getting a coronavirus infection may lead to, and whether you, as a thyroid patient, should take any extra measures to help yourself to go through the pandemic period. In this article, we collected several evidence-based tips that address the specifics of thyroid patients’ health.

Tip 1. Be kind to your mind.

Let’s be clear – it is OK to want to be updated on the recent news, care about your family’s safety, and just be curious about the humanity’s progress in the fight against COVID-19. However, if you feel constant anxiety, thoughts about the pandemic interfere with your daily routine, or you tend to imagine fatalistic scenarios – there is a need to address these feelings on your own or with the help of a professional. 

This is a general recommendation of the World Health Organization to all people across the globe but the patients with chronic thyroid conditions must take it more seriously. It goes without saying that being in the middle of a pandemic is stressful to everyone, however, people with chronic diseases such as hypo- or hyperthyroidism, Grave’s diseases, goiter, thyroid cancer, and others may experience harder times with overcoming it. Scientists have found that stress does not just act as a potential catalyst for some thyroid diseases (which isn’t surprising as stress accelerates many other illnesses) but it also works backward – thyroid disorders make it harder to overcome stress. Besides, psychological symptoms may be a side-effect of the treatment. For example, steroids can aggravate depression or beta-blockers, which are often used to slow down your heart rate and to reduce anxiety, can make some people tired, depressed, and less alert. Prolonged stress becomes chronic, negatively influencing the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid and hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis. Thus, the people with thyroid conditions have a higher risk of getting caught in this endless “more stress – more hormonal disbalance” circle.

That is why you have to be kind to your mind and develop an understanding that you tolerate stress differently from the others. We don’t encourage you to use this fact as an excuse but maybe it makes sense to give yourself some extra self-care or approach a therapist a bit earlier than you would do it without a thyroid condition. Do not feel ashamed or scared – your feelings and emotions are a part of your personality and learning how to cope with them is nothing but a mature approach to life. Here are some general useful tips from CDC on how to approach stress: https://emergency.cdc.gov/coping/selfcare.asp

Tip 2. Make sure that you understand and address your risks correctly.

Nowadays, the media is overloaded with “people with chronic diseases are at a high risk of COVID-19 complications” statements. Even though they seem logical, it isn’t exactly the truth. First of all, the range of chronic diseases is huge – from more well-known conditions like gastritis of goiter to rare genetic syndromes and malignancies. We can’t summarize them into one group as their mechanism, location and presentation differ too much. Secondly, even though during the COVID-19 disease the virus circulates all over the body, there are always some more and less vulnerable organs to each particular infection. That’s why one shouldn’t unite all chronic health conditions into one group.

Great news – the CDC has created a list of certain underlying medical conditions that increase the risk for severe illness from COVID-19. It is kept up to date and you may find the evidence which stands behind each of the recommendations.

The group of thyroid diseases isn’t listed there, yay! However, do not rush into conclusions – cancer, obesity, use of the corticosteroids and other risks may apply to some of you. British NHS has a similar list of moderate and high-risk groups of patients on their website. Their page has a great feature – it specifies the particular types of malignant diseases and cancer treatments which have been linked to higher chances of COVID-19 infection complication. We strongly recommend you to familiarize yourself with this data and define whether you are at the risk group or not. This may help you to control the situation and understand whether you need any additional safety measures.

Tip 3. Compensate!

Whether you have a freshly diagnosed thyroid condition or a combination of chronic problems – it does not differ much in terms of the risks of COVID-19 complications as long as they remain compensated. The compensation means that the disease can’t be completely cured but due to the treatment it does not progress and the patient feels relatively well. 

COVID-19 pandemic may have canceled many scheduled plans but this shouldn’t apply to your medical appointments. Here’s a quick questionnaire to see if there’s anything you are missing at the moment:

  1. Are you feeling well? Do you experience any thyroid-related symptoms at the moment? All symptoms and signs of thyroid disease decompensation must be reported to the specialist to detect the reason behind them and prescribe a new treatment regimen which will make you feel better.
  2. Is your blood work up-to-date? Are you periodically missing the medication which has been prescribed? It may be a good moment to consider using ThyForLife, as our app is designed to assist you in the organization of your medical data and to remind you about an upcoming check-up or medication.
  3. Do you have any procedures such as fine-needle aspiration or thyroid surgery which were delayed because of the COVID-19 outbreak? Check the position of the American Thyroid Association regarding the performance of these manipulations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  4. Do you have any other medical conditions which aren’t controlled by the physician? As mentioned above, some diseases make you more vulnerable to infections and are more likely to result in complications, especially when they are in an acute phase or poorly managed. Some of them, such as obesity, may be completely cured with the help of professionals.

The best you can do for your safety during the coronavirus outbreak besides following general epidemiological measures is to take action and get the existing problems under control. We at our company are happy to make this process easier and more convenient for you.

You can view app features on www.thyforlife.com and download ThyForLife’s thyroid tracking app in the Google Play Store at: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.thyforlife.android&hl=en

 

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