Thyroid Disorders Awareness

1st June 2017

Mr GREG PIPER ( Lake Macquarie ) ( 15:46 :54 ): I am pleased to contribute to this matter of public importance brought to the attention of the House by the member for Maitland. I endorse the comments of the member for Maitland and the member for Riverstone in relation to this matter. This week is International Thyroid Awareness Week and I am pleased to raise awareness about thyroid disorders and what can be done to minimise the effect they can have on the health of those affected by a thyroid disorder. According to the Thyroid Foundation, women are 10 times more likely to have a thyroid disorder than men.

The thyroid gland is in the front of the neck below the voice box and is shaped like a butterfly. Every cell in the body depends on thyroid hormones for regulation of the metabolism. Thyroid disorders are a common problem and can cause the thyroid to produce too much hormone—hyperthyroidism—or not enough hormone, hypothyroidism. I have a close friend, Ronnie, who has been affected by Graves disease, which is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. It is triggered by the immune system producing antibodies that stimulate the thyroid gland to increase the size of the gland and produce excessive amounts of thyroid hormone.

About a year and half ago, she become quite unwell. She had all the classic symptoms—weight loss, sweats, heart palpitations, hand tremor, tiredness, weak muscles, racing heart rate, anxiety, goitre, which is an enlarged thyroid, and protruding eyes. She had been sick for several months until a lung specialist realised she had thyroid issues. She was referred to an endocrinologist immediately and the specialist was shocked she was still alive because her body was under so much pressure she could have had a heart attack. Ronnie still battles with this issue today but she has come a long way and is getting better and better each day. She is so grateful for the support she has received from her endocrinologist and her family and friends to get her feeling like herself again.

Who would have thought the butterfly-shaped gland in the base of her neck could affect her life so much. Ronnie said that if only someone had noticed her protruding eyes or enlarged goitre she may have sought treatment for this disease earlier. Hopefully by sharing her story and others here today, we can raise awareness during this important week. If a person thinks they might have these symptoms, they should check with their general practitioner, or indeed, if people notice someone with these symptoms they should advise them to see their doctor. This is an important health issue, particularly for women, and I thank the member for Maitland for bringing it to the attention of the Parliament as a matter of public importance.

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