Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is a condition in which the immune system attacks the body’s tissues, namely the thyroid or goiter. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is often also called Hashimoto’s disease. In people with Hashimoto, the immune system attacks the thyroid and will cause a condition of hypothyroidism, a condition when the thyroid is unable to produce enough thyroxine hormone for the body’s needs.
Causes of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
The exact cause of this disease is still unknown, but many factors are believed to be the cause of this disease. These factors include:
- Genetic. People with Hashimoto often have a family history of also having thyroid disease or other autoimmune diseases. This is what underlies the role of genetics in Hashimoto’s service.
- Hormone. Hashimoto affects about seven times more women than men, suggesting that female sexual hormones might play a role. In addition, some women have thyroid problems during the first year after giving birth. Although this problem usually goes away, as many as 20 percent of these women get Hashimoto years later.
- Excessive iodine. Research shows certain drugs and too much iodine, an element needed by your body to make thyroid hormones, can trigger thyroid disease in susceptible people.
- Radiation exposure. Increased cases of thyroid disease have been reported in people exposed to radiation, including the atomic bomb in Japan, the Chernobyl nuclear accident, and radiation treatment for a form of blood cancer called Hodgkin’s disease.
Symptoms of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
Hashimoto’s symptoms may be mild at first or take years to develop. The first sign of this disease is that the thyroid is often enlarged, called goiter or medically called a goiter. This goiter can cause the front of your neck to look swollen. Large goiters can make it difficult to swallow. Other symptoms of an underactive thyroid due to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis can include:
- Weight gain
- Pale or swollen on the face
- Joint and muscle pain
- Inability to warm one’s own body
- Trouble getting pregnant
- Joint and muscle pain
- Hair loss or thinning, brittle hair
- Irregular or heavy menstrual periods
- Heart rate slows down.
Because Hashimoto’s thyroid symptoms can resemble other medical conditions, it is important to consult with your doctor to diagnose.
Treating Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
There is no cure for Hashimoto, but patients will be given a replacement for the synthesis of thyroxine hormone, with drugs that can regulate hormone levels and to restore the body’s normal metabolism.
Pills are available in several different strengths. The exact dose your doctor will prescribe depends on a number of factors, including:
- Severity of hypothyroidism
- Other health problems
- Other drugs that can interact with synthetic thyroid hormones.
After you start treatment, your doctor will order a laboratory test called a thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) test to monitor thyroid function and help make sure you get the right dose. Because thyroid hormones act very slowly in the body, it may take several months to stop symptoms and to get depleted in size. However, large goiters that are difficult to repair and maybe the thyroid gland need to be removed or operated on.
Left untreated, an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism) caused by Hashimoto’s disease can cause a number of health problems:
- Goiter. Your constant thyroid stimulation to release more hormones can cause the glands to become enlarged, a condition known as goiter. Hypothyroidism is one of the most common causes of goiter. Although generally uncomfortable, large goiters can affect your appearance and can interfere with the process of swallowing or breathing.
- Heart problems. Hashimoto’s disease can also be associated with an increased risk of heart disease, especially due to high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol – “bad” cholesterol – can occur in people with underactive thyroid glands (hypothyroidism). If left untreated, hypothyroidism can lead to an enlarged heart and possibly, heart failure.
- Mental health problems. Depression can occur early in Hashimoto’s disease and can become more severe over time. Hashimoto’s disease can also cause decreased sexual desire (libido) in both men and women and can cause mental function to slow down.
- Myxedema. This rare and life-threatening condition can develop due to long-term hypothyroidism as a result of untreated Hashimoto’s disease. Signs and symptoms include sleepiness followed by lethargy and deep unconsciousness. Myxedema coma can be triggered by exposure to cold, sedatives, infections or other pressure on your body. Myxedema requires immediate emergency medical treatment.
- Birth defects. Babies born to women with hypothyroidism who are not treated for Hashimoto’s disease may have a higher risk of birth defects than babies born to healthy mothers. Doctors have long known that these children are more vulnerable to intellectual and developmental problems. There may be an association between hypothyroid pregnancy and birth defects, such as the cleft palate. Connections also exist between hypothyroid pregnancy and heart, brain and kidney problems in infants. If you are planning to become pregnant or if you are in early pregnancy, be sure to check your thyroid level.