As the world continues to fight COVID-19, it’s becoming important for the populace to continue taking the recommended precautionary measures. While this does assist in controlling the spread of the virus, there’s a need to realize that there are people who are more vulnerable to others. Apart from catching it, the people in this group also face the possibility of experiencing life-threatening complications. Fortunately, patients suffering from thyroid disorders, e.g., Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis or Grave’s Disease are not in this group.
According to Jenna Mammen an endocrinologist working at John Hopkins University, the global spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it a lot of confusion and misinformation. Particularly, the problem is more for those under medication, especially taking T3 Medication. The confusion, much of which is occurring online relates to Hashimoto’s.
Some Good News, Finally!
According to Jenna, Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune condition. However, this doesn’t mean that it isn’t an immune-compromised condition which would lead healthcare professionals to expect additional problems where the coronavirus is concerned. She goes on to add that:
“Autoimmune diseases that normally target the important organs, e.g., the kidneys are normally treated using an immunosuppressive agent. But while this does cause predisposition, the good news is that thyroid sickness is not typically placed in that group.”
For Grave’s patients, they can become easily susceptible to getting this infection if they are taking a drug, Methimazole. This is because the drug has a rare side effect that contributes to a highly diminished white blood cell count. Nonetheless, patients should note that this risk isn’t common. It is also uncommon among people who are on longer-term therapies involving the use of low dosages.
Surgeries Can Increase the Risk of Contracting COVID-19 for Thyroid Patients
Are you at risk of contracting COVID-19 due to your thyroid condition? It’s essential to note there are endocrine patients that may have to go under the knife for their condition to get better. This will include patients who have thyroid cancers.
A list of recommendations was recently released by the American Association of Endocrine Surgeons. Additionally, the procedures they would consider emergent or urgent amid this pandemic as opposed to being deemed elective.
A surgeon may work with a patient to arrive at a decision not to postpone a surgery depending on:
- the location
- the status of the patient
- the prevailing COVID-19 situation in the surrounding community
Types of possible Surgeries
- A biopsy to confirm a previously suspected case of thyroid lymphoma or anaplastic thyroid cancer. This helps the doctor to recommend the right treatment regime
- Procedures are related to hypoparathyroidism conditions which doctors believe it’s not possible to treat or control using available medication.
- Patients that have been diagnosed with antagonistic thyroid cancers which come with a short doubling duration
- Patients with severe or life-threatening Grave’s disease that doctors can’t manage to control with medication
Given that all elective surgeries have been placed on hold, it’s becoming increasingly important for patients and physicians to work together when making decisions. Both parties need to carefully consider the conditions which are urgent and which aren’t. This is about deciding what has to occur in the next few weeks and what can wait for a few more months.
While there are thyroid surgeries that cannot wait, surgeons are trying their best to reduce the traffic making its way to hospitals. As such, they are trying to ensure patients stay away from healthcare centers unless they have to be there!
According to Dr. Amy Chen, an endocrine surgeon stationed at Emory University, there are currently no data to suggest that thyroid patients who have recently undergone surgery are at an increased risk of becoming infected with COVID-19. But as is the case with any other surgery, going under the knife takes the body through a stressor.
This stress alone is capable of making some patients prone to getting an infection. Additionally, they may also get to experience harsher symptoms, which may include getting the virus. The recovery time for such patients is also likely to be longer.
Is It Worth Waiting?
Dr. Chen notes that the hardest part for them is informing a patient they are suffering from cancer, but they can’t begin treatment. In some cases, the patients and their doctors may want surgery to occur immediately, but fail to get approval from the hospital.
Some hospitals are refusing to facilitate thyroid surgeries because thyroid cancer isn’t a condition that ranks highly in terms of surgical priorities. Patients that have surgery often face more risks, especially having to be in a building where some workers and patients are already suffering from the infection.
Currently, there is no valid reason to believe that thyroid patients are at an increased risk of contracting COVID-19. It’s best to closely work with your physician to monitor the situation as it continues to evolve. This also calls for you to try to understand whether your condition requires surgery or if it can be controlled using medication.