Hashimoto’s thyroidism, also known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, and Hashimoto’s disease. Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disorder that can cause hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid. With this disease, your immune system attacks your thyroid cause inflammation on the patient thyroid gland. The thyroid becomes damaged and can’t make enough thyroid hormones.
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Inflammation from Hashimoto’s disease often leads to an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism). Hashimoto’s disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism. It primarily affects middle-aged women but can also occur in men and women of any age and in children.
Causes of Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism
The exact cause of Hashimoto’s is not known, but many factors are believed to play a role. They include:
Genes. People who get Hashimoto’s often have family members who have thyroid disease or other autoimmune diseases.
Hormones. Hashimoto’s affects about seven times as many women as men, suggesting that sex hormones may play a role. Furthermore, some women have thyroid problems during the first year after having a baby.
Excessive iodine. Research suggests certain drugs and too much iodine, may trigger thyroid disease in susceptible people.
Radiation exposure. Increased cases of thyroid disease have been reported in people exposed to radiation, including the atomic bombs in Japan, the Chernobyl nuclear accident, and radiation treatment for a form of blood cancer called Hodgkin’s disease.
Symptoms of Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism
The hypothyroidism of Hashimoto’s disease often is subclinical—mild and without symptoms—especially early in the disease. As hypothyroidism progresses, you may have one or more of the following symptoms:
- Tiredness, weight gain
- trouble tolerating cold, joint and muscle pain
- constipation, dry, thinning hair
- heavy, irregular menstrual periods, problems becoming pregnant
- depression, memory problems
- a slowed heart rate
Treatments for Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism
If Hashimoto’s disease does progress to hypothyroidism, the usual treatment is a synthetic (man-made) form of thyroid hormone called levothyroxine (Synthroid®, Tirosint®, Levoxyl®, Levothroid®, Unithroid®).
This drug restores the normal function of the thyroid. You’ll need to take it every day for the rest of your life. Your providers and you will figure out how to adjust your dose to make sure that your hypothyroidism is kept under control.
Is Hashimoto’s disease dangerous or fatal?
If left untreated, hypothyroidism can lead to some serious complications and, in rare cases, death. These include:
Heart problems, such as enlarged heart or heart failure.
Mental health issues, including depression.
Myxedema coma, which needs immediate emergency care. Myxedema is a rare, life-threatening condition that can lead to heart failure, seizures, coma, and death.
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