Six Things You Need to Know about Hashimoto's Thyroiditis

While Hashimoto's thyroiditis has no cure, a timely diagnosis and proper treatment can help you manage it and reduce your risk of complications.
Six Things You Need to Know about Hashimoto's Thyroiditis

Last update: 14 October, 2020

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disorder that generates a lot of curiosity because it’s not caused by one single concrete thing. It was discovered in the 20th century, specifically in 1912, by the Japanese doctor Hakaru Hashimoto.

So, how does this disease affect the thyroid gland and the immune system? Find out below, along with other interesting facts.

What is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis?

When Hashimoto did his research, he discovered that the immune system sometimes attacks body tissue instead of protecting it.

In the case of this disease, the body attacks the thyroid gland. Thus, the immediate result is a considerable reduction in the production of hormones you need for many bodily functions.

American Thyroid Association experts explain the disease as follows: “It’s an autoimmune disorder in which antibodies directed against the thyroid gland lead to chronic inflammation. It isn’t known why some people produce antibodies, although this condition tends to run in families.”

Furthermore, Dr. Hershman states that “Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is the most common type of thyroiditis and the most common cause of hypothyroidism.”

A woman with a sore throat.
Patients with hypothyroidism can have a wide variety of symptoms since thyroid hormones affect many biological functions. Often, the person experiences fatigue, weight gain, and mood swings.

The causes of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis

The causes of the disease aren’t completely understood, but scientists believe certain aspects are related to its development.

  • Firstly, your genes
  • Exposure to radiation
  • Unexplained hormonal changes
  • Your sex. This is because most patients suffering from this disease are middle-aged women. However, this doesn’t mean it can’t affect men and children.
  • Finally, excessive iodine. Furthermore, Dr. Hashimoto’s studies showed that excessive iodine in the body can trigger this disease, especially if it runs in your family.

Symptoms of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis

A patient crying in front of her doctor because of a diagnosis of Hashimoto's thyroiditis.

The symptoms show up slowly. As a result, it makes it difficult to detect it at its first stages.

However, experts at the Mayo Clinic say you can take into account the symptoms of hypothyroidism so you know when it’s time to see your doctor.

  • Depression
  • Constipation
  • Pale, dry skin
  • Constant snoring
  • Swollen-looking face
  • Excessive menstrual bleeding
  • Weak lower extremities
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Extreme tiredness or daily, constant fatigue
  • Stiff hip and shoulder muscles
  • Weight gain due to fluid retention
  • Stiff hand, foot, and knee joints

How to diagnose Hashimoto’s thyroiditis

Hashimoto’s disease can be diagnosed with the following tests that evaluate thyroid function:

  • T3 test: A test that shows problems with the pituitary gland and triiodothyronine hormone.
  • Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) test: TSH is a hormone that stimulates the thyroid to produce and release other hormones into your bloodstream. This test will check your levels.
  • Free T4 test: The balance of this hormone is very important. It’s common for it to be elevated due to medication such as contraceptives, while barbiturates lower it. However, outside of these factors, it should be at the correct level.

What does this disease do?

A doctor consoling a patient.

Naturally, the problems that Hashimoto’s thyroiditis causes lie in it being an autoimmune disease. In addition, as we’ve mentioned, autoimmune diseases make the body turns against its own tissues and organs. Overall, this means that the affected tissues start to lose their ability to do the jobs they’re supposed to do.

Over time, other autoimmune diseases may develop as a result:

  • Goiters
  • Myxedema
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Lupus erythematosus
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Heart problems
  • Addison’s disease
  • Ovary problems

How to reduce the risk of this disease

Unfortunately, there really is no way to prevent Hashimoto’s disease. However, what you can do is keep the risk factors in mind, have a healthy lifestyle, and get periodical check-ups.

Therefore, if you have a family history of the condition or if your doctor indicates you have a risk factor, you should be tested every year to make sure everything is as it should.

Overall, if you want to lower your risk, a healthy lifestyle that includes a proper diet, exercise, and rest can be a big help.

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