Hashimoto's disease is an autoimmune disorder, where the immune system attacks the thyroid gland, a small organ situated at the base of the neck below Adam’s apple. The thyroid gland is part of the endocrine system that produces hormones, which hold a significant role in performing several bodily functions. An inflammation caused by Hashimoto’s disease, also known as chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, leads to an underactive thyroid gland. Hashimoto’s disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism, it mainly affects middle-aged women, but can also develop in men and women of any age and sometimes in children.
Symptoms Of Hashimoto’s Disease
Signs and symptoms are not visible initially, a person may observe swelling at front of throat - goitre. The symptoms of Hashimoto's disease usually develops slowly over a period of time and results in chronic thyroid damage that may lead to low levels of thyroid in the blood. The common symptoms of underactive thyroid gland include:
Increased sensitivity to cold
Pale, dry skin
A puffy face
Enlargement of the tongue
Sudden weight gain
Muscle aches and stiffness
Excessive menstrual bleeding
Causes of Hashimoto’s Disease
It is an autoimmune disorder, where the immune system makes antibodies that damage the thyroid gland. Doctors still do not know what exactly causes the immune system to attack the thyroid gland. While some scientists believe that a virus or bacterium may trigger the response or it may due to a genetic problem.
Heredity, sex and age are some of the causative factors that may determine the likelihood of developing the disorder.
Sex: Women are more likely to develop Hashimoto’s disease than men.
Age: It can develop at any age but most commonly occurs during middle age.
Heredity: A family history of Hashimoto’s disease can increase your risk.
Autoimmune Disease: Having another autoimmune disease like rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes or lupus can increase your risk.
Radiation: People who are exposed to high levels of environmental radiation are prone to develop Hashimoto’s disease.
Hashimoto’s disease if left untreated, can lead to several health problems:
Goitre: Constant triggering of thyroid gland to secrete more hormones may cause the gland to become enlarged leading to a condition known as a goitre.
Heart Problems: This disease may increase the risk of heart disease due to high levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol.
Mental Problems: Depression may develop early in Hashimoto’s disease and later on may become very severe. It can also cause the sexual drive to decrease in both men and women owing to delayed mental functioning.
Myxedema: It is a rare life-threatening condition that develops due to long-term hypothyroidism as a result of untreated Hashimoto’s disease.
Birth defects: Infants born to women with untreated Hashimoto’s disease are at higher risk of birth defects –cleft palate and also prone to cognitive malfunctions.
The doctor may assess the patient for the presence of symptoms of Hashimoto’s disease such as feeling tired, sluggish, dry skin, constipation, and voice change or with a previous history of thyroid problems. Furthermore, the doctor may also suggest certain blood works that measure levels of thyroid hormones, which include:
Hormone test that measures the levels of thyroid hormones T3, T4 and TSH.
An antibody blood test may confirm the presence of thyroid peroxidase antibodies, an enzyme found in the thyroid gland that plays a vital role in the production of thyroid hormones. However, sometimes TPO antibody test is not positive for all with Hashimoto’s disease. Some individual may have TPO antibodies present in the blood sample but don’t have a goitre.
Generally, treatment for Hashimoto’s disease may involve medications and observation. If thyroid hormone deficiency is the cause for Hashimoto’s disease then the patient may need hormone replacement therapy and once started medications have to be continued for the rest of your life. Oral medications helps to restore normal hormone levels and reverses the symptoms associated with the condition.