Australian Statistics

Robyn Koumourou, 2004

AUSTRALIAN STATISTICS FOR DIAGNOSED THYROID CONDITIONS

There has always been a debate about the number of Australians affected by some type of thyroid disease. The majority of Endocrinologists believe that in our country only around 5% of the population have definite thyroid conditions, with the majority being women. A smaller number of medical professionals and thyroid specialists believe the numbers to be far greater, being closer to 20-30% of the population, due to so many being misdiagnosed or having borderline results. As it stands, Australian studies indicate that roughly 10% of the Australian population have a diagnosed thyroid condition, but again these results only reflect those who have been clearly diagnosed with overt hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, nodular goitre and thyroid cancer. Unfortunately,  the current statics still do not adequately reflect the amount of Australians who suffer with thyroid related abnormalities and illness.  

In the general population:

 

50% of people have microscopic nodules

 3.5% have papillary thyroid cancer

 15% have enlarged thyroid glands – goitres

15% have positive thyroid antibodies

 10% have abnormal thyroid function tests

 

 8% have hypothyroidism

2-3% have hyperthyroidism

 1 in 3,500 newborns are diagnosed with congenital thyroid disease

The Problem

Many of following are generally not included in the statistics for clearly diagnosed thyroid disorders, as their thyroid function results are not considered abnormal enough:

 

  •  Those who remain undiagnosed.

  •  Those who are misdiagnosed with having other conditions.

  •  Those who are considered subclinical or borderline, with a slightly elevated or supressed TSH.

  •  Those who are positive to thyroid antibodies, but have thyroid hormones levels within the normal reference ranges.

  •  Those who have elevated thyroid antibodies, and a slightly elevated TSH, with little to no clinical symptoms.

  •  Those with thyroid hormone levels within the reference ranges, who have significant symptoms of hypothyroidism.

  •  Those who have normal TSH and T4 levels, but have T3 levels below the reference range, which is generally not tested.

  •  Those who have normal thyroid hormone levels according to their blood test results, but have significant hypothyroid symptoms, and a low metabolic rate. These patients are frequently told that they are not hypothyroid according to their results. However, for many patients the problem is at the cellular level where thyroid hormones are poorly utilised, poorly transported, poorly converted, or have a type of cellular resistance to thyroid hormone action. These patients are significantly hypothyroid despite normal levels of hormone circulating in the bloodstream.

It is not difficult to see why so many people suffering with thyroid related abnormalities are overlooked, misdiagnosed, mismanaged,  and not taken seriously, especially when the diagnosis is made based on TSH alone and clinical symptoms are dismissed as something else.  

Therefore, more realistically, the percentage of people suffering with thyroid conditions in Australia is more likely around 20% or more of the population. It is already well documented that the percentage of those with clearly diagnosed hypothyroidism increases to 30% after the age of 50.

Considering all of this, it is amazing that thyroid conditions are still so poorly understood, and poorly managed, and the majority of society knows very little. Greater education and awareness is needed to combat the ignorance surrounding thyroid issues, and the importance of the thyroid gland in the overall health and wellbeing of all people. Many doctors still believe it is easy to diagnose and easy to treat, according to their training from Endocrinologists, who's main focus is on Diabetes and not thyroid conditions. It's no wonder that many thyroid patients get a raw deal.

References:

Thyroid Flyer, feature 'Hypothyroidism', July 2000

https://7c6d4c62-9d52-4bd0-a2e4-c3a8bcb1fe50.filesusr.com/ugd/a3a40a_c8a1e241067d4becb6018bccc6d9ea15.pdf

Australian Government Department of Health,'46 Thyroid Dysfunction', Pregnancy Care Guidelines, 2019.

https://www.health.gov.au/resources/pregnancy-care-guidelines/part-g-targeted-maternal-health-tests/thyroid-dysfunction

PubMed, 'Prevalence of thyroid disease in an older Australian population', abstract, 2007

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17547723/

PubMed, 'Prevalence of thyroid dysfunction and thyroid antibodies in a private obstetrical practice in Sydney

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27004843/

© 2004 by Robyn Koumourou

Thyroid Disorders | ThyroidMatters

Updated 2020