Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an inherited disease, which causes hypothyroidism.  It is a very common disease and is much more prevalent in women than men.  Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is also sometimes called chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis or autoimmune disease.  Autoimmune means that the body produces immune cells and antibodies which damage the thyroid gland.  Therefore, the thyroid cannot produce enough thyroid hormone for the body and hypothyroidism is the result.  Some people with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis develop an enlarged thyroid, especially if left untreated.

A patient with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis may go years without symptoms until the disease surfaces in the way of an enlarged thyroid.  It is also possible the disease will be diagnosed due to abnormal blood tests after a routine examination.  Sometimes the first symptom a patient will have is swelling in the lower front portion of the neck.  This can be painless, but irritating nonetheless.  This enlargement in the neck will eventually create a pressure-like sensation.   If not treated, it can cause difficulty swallowing or breathing.

Symptoms of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis can be vague, but basically are similar to the symptoms of hypothyroidism and become more intense as the disease worsens.  Some common symptoms are

fatigue, dry skin, depression, nervousness, drowsiness, dry, coarse hair, sore muscles, weight gain and cold intolerance.  As the condition worsens, the skin around the eyes may become puffy or heart rate may slow.  In the most severe cases of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis can lead to myxedema coma, which is life threatening and requires immediate hospitalization.

Because there is no cure for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and because this disease tends to worsen over time, thyroid hormone therapy is usually required all through life.  However, it is important to see your doctor on a regular basis for possible adjustments to your medication.  A person with this condition must have regular laboratory tests because the body is very vulnerable to small changes in thyroid hormone levels.

Sometimes, because Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an immune system disorder, the immune system will cause other parts of the body to break down.  This does not happen often, but patients with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis do have an increased risk of developing type 1 diabetes mellitus, Grave’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis, to name a few.

A person with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis must have regular visits with a doctor who is familiar with thyroid disorders and you must follow your doctor’s orders explicitly so your body’s metabolic balance can be regained.