Six Things You Need to Know about Hashimoto's Thyroiditis

17 January, 2019
While Hashimoto's thyroiditis has no cure, a timely diagnosis and proper treatment can help you manage it and reduce your risk of complications.

In 1912, Japanese doctor Hakaru Hashimoto discovered a new immune system disease. According to his research, this condition attacks the immune system through the thyroid gland. Learn more about Hashimoto’s disease, or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, in this article.

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.

Check this article out, too: 5 Things You Should Know About Autoimmune Diseases

The causes of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis

A family hugging.

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

If you have the four risk factors below, you should go see a specialist to determine if you have the disease or what your risk is.

Your genes

First of all, this disease often manifests in families with instances of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or similar diseases. It’s also important to talk with your loved ones and get tests done in order to rule out serious problems.

Excessive iodine

In addition, Doctor Hashimoto’s studies showed that excessive iodine in the body can trigger this disease.

Even though you should always avoid consuming too much iodine, pay special attention to your consumption if you have a family history of this condition.

Unexplained hormonal changes

A woman with Hashimoto's thyroiditis.

Since Hashimoto’s disease affects the thyroid, your hormone levels can be altered. In general, most women with the disease are diagnosed between one and five years after giving birth, although it can manifest before pregnancy as well.

Exposure to radiation

This disease is one of the most common effects of radiation exposure. Different studies carried out after the explosions at Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Chernobyl demonstrate this.

Patients who have received radiation for leukemia and other cancers may also develop the disease.

Symptoms of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis

The symptoms show up slowly. The changes you should watch out for include:

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

How to diagnose Hashimoto’s thyroiditis

Hashimoto’s disease can be diagnosed with the following tests:

  • 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. Outside of these factors, it should be at the correct level.

What does this disease do?

The ovaries and fallopian tubes.

Naturally, the problems that Hashimoto’s thyroiditis causes lie in it being an autoimmune disease. 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:

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

We recommend reading: 9 Facts about Ovarian Cysts that Every Woman Should Know

How to reduce the risk of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis

Unfortunately, there really is no way to prevent Hashimoto’s disease. However, what you can do is keep the risk factors in mind and watch out for the symptoms.

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.

However, it’s important to remember that the disease has symptoms that are quite clear to specialists, so it’s fairly easy to catch in a timely manner. The tests are very precise and early diagnosis can help you manage the disease well and avoid complications.

  • Agate, L.; Mariotti, S.; Elisei, R.; Mossa, P., et al. (2008). “Thyroid autoantibodies and thyroid function in subjects exposed to Chernobyl fallout during childhood: evidence for a transient radiation-induced elevation of serum thyroid antibodies without an increase in thyroid autoimmune disease”, J Clin Endocrinol Metab, 93 (7): 2729-36.
  • Candel Gonzalez, F. J.; Matesanz David, M., y Candel Monserrate, I. (2001). “Insuficiencia corticosuprarrenal primaria: Enfermedad de Addison”, An. Med. Interna, 18 (9): 48-54.
  • Sawin, C. T. (2002). “The heritage of Dr. Hakaru Hashimoto (1881-1934)”, Endocr J., 49 (4): 399-403.
  • Vilanova, S. (1988). Chernóbil: el fin del mito nuclear. El impacto informativo y biológico del mayor accidente de la industria electro-nuclear. Madrid: Anthropos.