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Hashimoto’s Disease: Symptoms, Risk Factors & Treatment

The human body has a security system which protects our health from diseases, by fighting disease-causing agents that enter the body or getting rid of the toxins which are produced inside the body. This security system of the human body is known as the immune system and it plays an important role in protecting your health.

When your immune system is not strong enough due to various factors like stress, side-effects of certain diseases or medications, unhealthy lifestyle, etc., you could be affected by a number of ailments, as your body's capacity to fight the disease is low.

In some cases, the immune system itself can attack your body to cause certain diseases and damage. Diseases which result from the immune system attacking your own body are known as the autoimmune diseases and they are rather common! Some of the most prevalent autoimmune diseases are rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, celiac disease, multiple sclerosis etc [1] .

Have you ever heard of the Hashimoto's disease? Well, it is yet another autoimmune disease, which is lesser known.

Learn about the symptoms, causes, risk factors and treatment for Hashimoto's disease below!

What Is Hashimoto's Disease?

As we read earlier, Hashimoto's disease is an autoimmune disease where your immune system attacks one of the most important endocrine glands of the human body - the thyroid gland [2] .

The thyroid gland is a small endocrine gland, located at the base of your neck and this gland produces hormones which have certain important bodily functions, such as metabolism, growth and development of the human body.

Now, when the Hashimoto's disease causes the immune system to attack the thyroid glands, it can lead to an inflammation [3] , which in turn causes thyroid diseases.

The inflammation caused by the Hashimoto's disease leads to an underactive thyroid gland(hypothyroidism), especially in middle-aged women. However, this autoimmune disease can affect men and women of any age.

Symptoms Of Hashimoto's Disease

Normally, the symptoms of Hashimoto's disease occur at the later stages, but some people do notice a swelling at the front part of their throat, which is a sign of this disease. The symptoms of Hashimoto's disease slowly, but progressively get worse over the years, if treatment is not given. Some of the common symptoms of Hashimoto's disease are:

  • Chronic fatigue and sluggishness [4]
  • Constipation
  • Pale & dry skin [4]
  • Low tolerance to cold
  • Brittle nails [5]
  • Puffiness in the face
  • Hair loss [5]
  • Enlargement of the tongue[6] Weight gain without an apparent reason
  • Joint & muscle pain
  • Stiffness in the muscles and joints [7]
  • Excessive and prolonged menstrual bleeding [8]
  • Memory lapses [9]
  • Depression

Causes & Risk Factors Of Hashimoto's Disease:

Some of the most common causes of Hashimoto's disease include:

  • Heredity (if your ancestors have suffered from thyroid diseases) [10]
  • Suffering from other autoimmune diseases like lupus, arthritis, diabetes, etc.
  • Being exposed to environmental radiation often [10] .
  • Having had prior thyroid surgery
  • Hormonal treatments or radiation therapy [11]
  • High cholesterol

Complications Involved:

Not treating Hashimoto's disease in time can lead to other major health complications such as:

  • Goitre - When Hashimoto's disease is left untreated, the inflammation can cause the thyroid gland to enlarge. This condition is known as goitre and it is caused due to an underactive thyroid gland [12] .
  • Heart Problems - Hashimoto's disease can also cause heart problems, as underactive thyroid glands could lead to the excess production of LDL (bad cholesterol) in the body, which can block your arteries eventually and cause heart diseases [13] .
  • Mental Health Issues - Hashimoto's disease is also linked to mental health issues like depression and low sexual libido, due to the fluctuations of the thyroid hormones in the body [9] .
  • Myxedema - This is a fatal condition which can develop when Hashimoto's disease is left untreated for a long time. It is characterised by chronic fatigue [4] , confusion, swelling on the face and legs etc. This condition requires immediate medical attention!
  • Birth Defects - Research studies have shown that infants born to women with untreated Hashimoto's disease can have birth defects which could lead to intellectual and behavioural problems, along with heart, brain and kidney issues [14] .

Treatment For Hashimoto's Disease:

Usually, Hashimoto's disease is diagnosed with the help of hormone tests and antibody tests suggested by your doctor.

Treatment for Hashimoto's disease includes administering artificial hormones into the body, via medications, which can help regulate the production of thyroid hormones to reduce the symptoms [15] .

View Article References
  1. [1] Smith, D. A., & Germolec, D. R. (1999). Introduction to immunology and autoimmunity. Environmental health perspectives, 107 Suppl 5(Suppl 5), 661–665. doi:10.1289/ehp.99107s5661
  2. [2] Mincer DL, Jialal I. Hashimoto Thyroiditis. [Updated 2019 May 5]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2019 Jan-.
  3. [3] Cai, Y. J., Wang, F., Chen, Z. X., Li, L., Fan, H., Wu, Z. B., … Zhu, D. F. (2018). Hashimoto's thyroiditis induces neuroinflammation and emotional alterations in euthyroid mice. Journal of neuroinflammation, 15(1), 299. doi:10.1186/s12974-018-1341-z
  4. [4] Ott, J., Promberger, R., Kober, F., Neuhold, N., Tea, M., Huber, J. C., & Hermann, M. (2011). Hashimoto's thyroiditis affects symptom load and quality of life unrelated to hypothyroidism: a prospective case–control study in women undergoing thyroidectomy for benign goiter. Thyroid, 21(2), 161-167.
  5. [5] Taguchi, T. (2018). Brittle Nails and Hair Loss in Hypothyroidism. New England Journal of Medicine, 379(14), 1363-1363.
  6. [6] Chandna, S., & Bathla, M. (2011). Oral manifestations of thyroid disorders and its management. Indian journal of endocrinology and metabolism, 15(Suppl 2), S113–S116. doi:10.4103/2230-8210.83343
  7. [7] Grozdinska, A., Hofmann, E., Schmid, M., & Hirschfelder, U. (2018). Prevalence of temporomandibular disorders in patients with Hashimoto thyroiditis. Journal of Orofacial Orthopedics/Fortschritte der Kieferorthopädie, 79(4), 277-288.
  8. [8] Weeks A. D. (2000). Menorrhagia and hypothyroidism. Evidence supports association between hypothyroidism and menorrhagia. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 320(7235), 649. doi:10.1136/bmj.320.7235.649
  9. [9] Anand, K. S., Garg, J., Verma, R., & Chakraborty, A. (2014). Hashimoto's Encephalitis: Unusual Cause of Reversible Dementia. Journal of family medicine and primary care, 3(3), 284–286. doi:10.4103/2249-4863.141650
  10. [10] Balázs, C. (2012). The role of hereditary and environmental factors in autoimmune thyroid diseases. Orvosi hetilap, 153(26), 1013-1022.
  11. [11] Nagayama Y. (2018). Radiation-related thyroid autoimmunity and dysfunction. Journal of radiation research, 59(suppl_2), ii98–ii107. doi:10.1093/jrr/rrx054
  12. [12] Chehade, J. M., Lim, W., Silverberg, A. B., & Mooradian, A. D. (2010). The incidence of Hashimoto’s disease in nodular goitre: the concordance in serological and cytological findings. International journal of clinical practice, 64(1), 29-33.
  13. [13] Udovcic, M., Pena, R. H., Patham, B., Tabatabai, L., & Kansara, A. (2017). Hypothyroidism and the Heart. Methodist DeBakey cardiovascular journal, 13(2), 55–59. doi:10.14797/mdcj-13-2-55
  14. [14] Sahay, R. K., & Nagesh, V. S. (2012). Hypothyroidism in pregnancy. Indian journal of endocrinology and metabolism, 16(3), 364–370. doi:10.4103/2230-8210.95667
  15. [15] Yoo, W. S., & Chung, H. K. (2016). Recent Advances in Autoimmune Thyroid Diseases. Endocrinology and metabolism (Seoul, Korea), 31(3), 379–385. doi:10.3803/EnM.2016.31.3.379