What is Hashimoto's Thyroiditis?
Hashimoto's thyroiditis affects the thyroid gland located at the base of the neck, just below the Adam's apple. The thyroid gland is a part of the endocrine system. It produces hormones that help in coordinating many body functions and activities related to growth and metabolism. Chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis is another medical name for this condition which is characterized by inflammation of the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is under attack by the body's own immune system. This damages the tissues present in thyroid gland, and also leads to hypothyroidism. According to various studies, Hashimoto's disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the US.
Causes of Hashimoto's Disease
Under normal circumstances, the immune system consists of antibodies and white blood cells. These cells are present in the body to protect the body against viruses, bacteria and other antigens. In an autoimmune disease, antibodies and white blood cells start attacking the body's own cells. In this case, the thyroid gland. It leads to an under-active thyroid gland and less production of thyroid hormones. The thyroid gland is stimulated by the pituitary gland to produce more hormones. This causes enlargement of the thyroid gland, a condition called goiter.
The cause of this autoimmune thyroid disease is still unknown. Many experts think that a virus or bacteria may trigger this self destruction response. A few have found genetics as the responsible cause. People who have a family history of type 1 diabetes or celiac disease tend to develop Hashimoto's thyroiditis. There are various other factors like age and sex that form a major part of Hashimoto's thyroiditis causes. The disease commonly affects middle aged women more than men. In a few cases, Hashimoto's thyroiditis tends to run in families.
Symptoms of Hashimoto's Disease
There are no specific Hashimoto's thyroiditis symptoms as this disease takes years to develop. Over a number of years, chronic thyroid damage takes place. Gradually, a drop in thyroid hormone level occurs and the hypothyroidism signs and symptoms, point towards Hashimoto's thyroiditis. The symptoms of hypothyroidism are very subtle in the beginning. A patient may show symptoms like fatigue, sluggishness, etc. As the condition progresses other symptoms include:
- Increase in sensitivity to cold and heat
- Dry skin
- Puffy face
- Hoarse voice
- Increase in blood cholesterol levels
- Unexplained weight gain
- Muscle pain
- Stiffness in joints
Treatment for Hashimoto's Disease
Once Hashimoto's thyroiditis is diagnosed, treatment is carried out on the basis of observations. Hashimoto's thyroiditis treatment includes hormone replacement therapy for thyroid hormones. The patient may be advised daily use of synthetic thyroid hormones like levothyroxine. This synthetic hormone is similar to thyroid hormone and helps restore the thyroid levels, thus, reversing all the Hashimoto's thyroiditis symptoms. The treatment is carried out for life and the dosage may be changed according the TSH levels every 6 to 12 months. The TSH levels need to be kept under 3.0 as the body will continue to attack it as long as it is active.
This was some information related to Hashimoto's thyroiditis. It is very important to treat Hashimoto's disease. If left untreated, it can lead to muscle failure, like even heart failure. Hashimoto's encephalopathy, an extremely rare complication of the condition, may occur too. It can cause growth problems with children and adolescents, and therefore it is important to follow hormone replacement therapy. If there are any more questions related to Hashimoto's thyroiditis as well as hypothyroidism, speak to a healthcare provider soon.