Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis which is also known as Hashimoto’s disease and chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis is a condition where the immune system turns against the body’s own tissues and attacks the thyroid. It is an autoimmune disease where the antibodies directed against the thyroid gland resulting in chronic inflammation. It is still unknown why some people create antibodies although this disorder tends to be present in families.
There may be no symptoms in the early stages of this condition. Over time, this condition could lead to the enlargement of the thyroid forming a painless goiter and a difficulty of the thyroid gland to create thyroid hormones which results in a slow decline in function and eventually hypothyroidism. People that develop hypothyroidism usually experience weight gain, depression, constipation, general pains, and a feeling of tiredness.
The thyroid is a small gland located in front of the neck. It is found at the base of the neck below Adam’s apple. It is part of the endocrine system that produces hormones that coordinate most of the body’s functions. The thyroid gland produces hormones that control metabolism. It is also responsible for the heart rate and how quickly the body uses calories from the foods that are eaten.
Causes of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
The specific cause of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is still unknown but it is believed that there are a lot of factors that play a role in the development of this condition. Here are some of the important factors affecting its development:
- Hormones– Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis can affect children and both men and women at any age but it mostly affects middle-aged women which suggest that sex hormones may play a role. Some women usually develop thyroid problems during the first year after giving birth to a baby. The thyroid problem usually goes away but there are around 20% of these women who develop Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis years later.
- Genes– Individuals who get Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis usually have family members who have autoimmune diseases such as thyroid disease. This points towards a genetic component to the disorder.
- Excessive Iodine– According to research, too much iodine and certain drugs may trigger thyroid problems in people who are susceptible to illnesses. Iodine is a trace element that is required by the body to make thyroid hormones.
- Radiation Exposure – There have been a number of cases of thyroid diseases reported for people who have been exposed to radiation which includes the Chernobyl nuclear accident, the atomic bombs in Japan, and radiation treatments as a treatment for cancer.
Symptoms of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis gradually progresses over the years. People who have this condition may not have any symptoms in the early stages of the disease even when blood tests may detect characteristic thyroid peroxidase antibodies, an enzyme that plays a role in producing thyroid hormones.
Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis’ symptoms may either be mild at first or they may take years to develop. One of the first symptoms of this condition is a goiter, a swelling in the neck due to an enlarged thyroid gland, which is a result of chronic and slow cell damage. The other symptoms of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis may include:
- Puffiness or paleness of the face
- Weight gain
- muscle and joint pain
- Dry skin
- Brittle hair
- Thinning of the hair or hair loss
- Inability to get warm
- Increased sensitivity to cold
- heavy or irregular menstruation
- Slowed heart rate
- Reduced exercise tolerance
The symptoms of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis may be the same as the symptoms of other medical conditions that’s why it’s important to see a doctor for proper diagnosis.
Treatments for Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
There is no exact cure for Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.
Patients with increased thyroid peroxidase antibodies but have normal thyroid function tests do not need treatment.
The treatment for those patients with hypothyroidism consists of the replacement of thyroid hormone. Synthetic levothyroxine is taken orally with a given dose. Only take this medication with a doctor’s prescription. This is not expensive although patients may have to take this lifetime. This is effective in the restoration of normal thyroid hormone levels and leads to the improvement in the symptoms of hypothyroidism.
Once a patient starts treatment, the doctor requires a lab test called thyroid-stimulating hormone test to check the thyroid function and ensure that the patient is getting the right dose.