The Basics of Hashimoto's Thyroiditis

Hashimoto’s Disease or Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease of the thyroid gland. It is considered as the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the United States, according to The American Thyroid Association[1]. It affects five (5) out of 100 people. It is also called Chronic Lymphocytic Thyroiditis as it is characterized by the chronic inflammation of the thyroid gland. Like any autoimmune disease, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis happens when the immune system attacks an otherwise healthy organ, in this case, the thyroid gland. This disease causes inflammation and affects the natural production of thyroid hormones.

Women’s Health[2] also shared that Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is more common in women than in men. It is often seen in women ages forty (40) to sixty (60). The risk of getting Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is also higher for women with preexisting autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.

Causes of Hashimoto's Thyroiditis

The exact cause of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is unknown[3] but researches have suggested that this is a result of genetics and an outside factor such as a virus. It is uncertain why the immune system is triggered to attack the thyroid gland but lymphocytes would build up around the thyroid and produce antibodies to strike and destroy it.

Family medical history is an important aspect to look at when diagnosing for Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Researchers are just not certain as of yet what exact genes are involved.

Symptoms of Hashimoto's Thyroiditis

There are no symptoms unique to Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. It is a disease that builds up over time and slowly progresses causing the neck to look swollen. As the disease grows, it may cause chronic cell damage leading to a swelling in the neck or a goiter. It also brings forth chronic damage to the thyroid leaving hormone levels in the blood to gradually drop further leading to hypothyroidism or the condition of having an underactive thyroid gland.

According to The Mayo Clinic[4], symptoms of hypothyroidism will also be exhibited in patients with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis some of which are unexplained weight gain, constipation, enlargement of the tongue, constipation, and muscle weakness.

Possible treatment for Hashimoto's Thyroiditis

Hormone therapy using Levothyroxine is a go-to treatment for Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Levothyroxine is a synthetic hormone replacing T4 hormone thyroxine. This is a lifelong treatment requiring frequent visits to a doctor until the correct dosage is determined.

Maintaining this synthetic hormone in your body can also take its toll on the body. Healthline[5] suggests to always talking to your doctor if iron, calcium supplements are part of your daily medication.

It is also essential to see a doctor to check the level of TSH or Thyroid Stimulating Hormone in the body, as normal TSH levels often do not require treatment. Patients with low thyroid hormone levels and elevated TSH will be required to go through thyroid replacement therapy.

If left untreated, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis can possibly cause heart failure, depression, decreased libido, anemia, high cholesterol, and loss of consciousness. It can also cause drastic problems in pregnant women as babies may be born with defects in the heart, kidney or even in the brain.

 

[1] Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (Lymphocytic Thyroiditis). The American Thyroid Association. https://www.thyroid.org/hashimotos-thyroiditis/

[2] Hashimoto’s Disease. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: Office on Women’s Health. https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/hashimotos-disease

[3] Hashimoto’s Disease. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/endocrine-diseases/hashimotos-disease

[4] Hashimoto’s Disease. The Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hashimotos-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20351855

[5] Hashimoto’s Disease. Wint C., Boskey E. (2018 September 20). https://www.healthline.com/health/chronic-thyroiditis-hashimotos-disease#complications

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