Hashimoto's disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects the thyroid gland, which plays an important role in managing many of the functions of the body. Also known as chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, Hashimoto's disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid. If the thyroid gland is not active enough, it does not make enough thyroid hormone to meet the body's needs and causes certain functions of the body to slow down. As a result of Hashimoto's disease, functions such as heart rate, brain function and the rate that the body converts food into energy, all slow down. Women are more likely than men to develop this condition. Left untreated, Hashimoto's disease may cause a variety of health complications.
Causes of Hashimoto's Disease
Although the exact cause is unknown, Hashimoto's disease is believed to be caused by an abnormality within the immune system. People with other autoimmune disorders such as vitiligo, Addison's disease, lupus and type 1 diabetes, are more likely to develop Hashimoto%u2019s disease. Other factors may also play a role in the development of Hashimoto's disease including:
- Gender - Women are much more likely than men to develop Hashimoto's disease
- Age - Hashimoto's disease commonly occurs during middle age
Research has also suggested that excessive iodine consumption may trigger thyroid disease in certain people.
Symptoms of Hashimoto's Disease
Symptoms of Hashimoto's disease are similar to those of hypothyroidism and may initially include goiter, fatigue, pale skin and a hoarse voice. Additional symptoms include:
- Dry, thinning hair
- Weight gain
- Joint pain
- Muscle weakness
- Increased sensitivity to cold
- Heavy and irregular menstrual bleeding
- Difficulty getting pregnant
Symptoms of this condition typically progress slowly over time.
Diagnosis of Hashimoto's Disease
Hashimoto's disease is diagnosed through a review of symptoms and a physical examination. Additional tests often include:
- Blood test
- Thyroid function test
- Antibody test
Blood tests can help to determine the amount of hormones produced by the thyroid and pituitary glands. Because Hashimoto's disease is considered an autoimmune disorder, blood tests are also used to analyze the production of abnormal antibodies.
Treatment of Hashimoto's Disease
Hashimoto's disease is commonly treated with medication called levothyroxine. This medication is commonly referred to as thyroid replacement therapy because it restores the thyroid hormone levels within the body. The dosage of medication varies based on the severity of the thyroid problem, the patient's age, weight, and any other existing health problems. A normal, healthy thyroid and metabolic state can be restored with thyroid replacement therapy, however, most patients have to take this medication for the rest of their lives.