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Hashimoto's Thyroiditis

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Updated April 16, 2014

What is Hashimoto's Thyroiditis?

Hashimoto's Thyroiditis is a type of autoimmune thyroid disease in which the immune system attacks and destroys the thyroid gland. The thyroid helps set the rate of metabolism - the rate at which the body uses energy. Hashimoto’s prevents the gland from producing enough thyroid hormones for the body to work correctly. It is the most common form of hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid).

What is an autoimmune disease?

An autoimmune disease occurs when the body's immune system becomes misdirected and attacks the organs, cells or tissues that it was designed to protect. About 75% of autoimmune diseases occur in women, most frequently during their childbearing years.

What are the symptoms of Hashimoto's Thyroiditis?

Some patients with Hashimoto's Thyroiditis may have no symptoms. However, the common symptoms are fatigue, depression, and sensitivity to cold, weight gain, muscle weakness, coarsening of the skin, dry or brittle hair, constipation, muscle cramps, increased menstrual flow, and goiter (enlargement of the thyroid gland).

Is this disease hereditary?

There is some evidence that Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis can have a hereditary link. If autoimmune diseases run in your family, you are at a higher risk of developing one yourself.

How can I know if I have this disease?

Your doctor will perform a blood for thyroid antibodies that can diagnose autoimmune Hashimoto's disease. This will usually be done in conjunction with a blood test to tell if your body has the correct amount of thyroid hormones. This test measures the blood TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) to determine if the thyroid hormone levels are in the normal range.

What is the treatment for this disease?

The hypothyroidism resulting from Hashimoto's Thyroiditis can be treated with thyroid hormone replacement. This medication will, in most cases, need to be taken for the rest of the patient's life. When trying to determine the correct hormone dosage, you may have to return to your doctor several times for adjustments in medication.

The underlying autoimmune disease, however, is not typically treated by conventional physicians, and alternative options must be explored.

What would happen without medication to regulate my thyroid function?

If left untreated, Hashimoto's Thyroiditis can cause further complications, including changes in menstrual cycles, prevention of ovulation, and an increased risk of miscarriage.

Source: HHS

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