Hashimoto’s Disease

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. 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 to develop Hashimoto's disease than men. If left untreated, this condition may cause a variety of health complications.

Causes of Hashimoto's Disease

Hashimoto's disease is typically caused by an abnormality within the immune system, although the exact cause remains unknown. People with other autoimmune disorders such as vitiligo, Addison's disease, lupus and type 1 diabetes, are more likely to develop Hashimoto's disease. Other factors may also play a role in the development of Hashimoto's diseases and may include:

  • Gender - women are much more likely than men to develop Hashimoto's disease
  • Genetics
  • Radiation exposure
  • Pregnancy
  • Excessive iodine consumption

Symptoms of Hashimoto's Disease

Symptoms of Hashimoto's disease are the same as those of hypothyroidism and may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Pale skin
  • Hoarseness
  • Dry, thinning hair
  • Weight gain
  • Joint pain
  • Goiter
  • Muscle weakness
  • Increased sensitivity to cold
  • Heavy and irregular menstrual bleeding
  • Depression
  • Difficulty getting pregnant

Diagnosis of Hashimoto's Disease

To diagnose Hashimoto's disease, the doctor will review all symptoms and perform a medical examination. Additional tests may include:

  • Blood test
  • Thyroid function test
  • Antibody test

Treatment of Hashimoto's Disease

Hashimoto's disease is usually 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 will vary 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 will have to take this medication for the rest of their lives.

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