What is Hashimoto's thyroiditis?Thyroiditis is when your thyroid gland becomes irritated. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is the most common type of this health problem. It is an autoimmune disease. It occurs when your body makes antibodies that attack the cells in your thyroid. The thyroid then can’t make enough of the thyroid hormone. Many people with this problem have an underactive thyroid gland. That’s also known as hypothyroidism. They have to take medicine to keep their thyroid hormone levels normal.
What is the cause of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis?Doctors do not know what causes thyroiditis. But it is most likely linked to your immune system. Some things in your environmental may also play a part.
Who is at risk for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis?
Things that may make it more likely to you for to get Hashimoto’s thyroiditis are:
Being female. Women are about 7 times more likely to have the disease.
Middle age. Most cases happen between 40 to 60 years of age. But it has been seen in younger people.
Heredity. The disease tends to run in families. But no gene has been found that carries it.
Autoimmune diseases. These health problems raise a person’s risk. Some examples are rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 diabetes. Having this type of thyroiditis puts you at higher risk for other autoimmune illnesses.
What are the symptoms of Hashimoto's thyroiditis?
Each person may have symptoms in a different way. But these are the most common symptoms:
It’s a benign enlargement of the thyroid gland. It causes a bulge on your neck.
It can cause these symptoms:
- Muscle weakness
- Weight gain
- Being cold bothers you
- Hair and skin changes
When the thyroid is attacked by antibodies, it may at first make more thyroid hormone. This is called Hashitoxicosis. It does not happen to everyone. But it can cause these symptoms:
- Being hot bothers you
- Rapid heart rate
- Weight loss
These symptoms may look like other health problems. Always see your health care provider for a diagnosis.
How is Hashimoto thyroiditis diagnosed?Your health care provider will ask about your past health. You will also need an exam. Blood tests can measure levels of thyroid hormone.
How is Hashimoto's thyroiditis treated?
Your health care provider will figure out the best treatment for you based on:
- How old you are
- Your overall health and past health
- How sick you are
- How well you can handle specific medicines, procedures, or therapies
- How long the condition is expected to last
- Your opinion or preference
You will not need treatment if your thyroid hormone levels are normal. But Hashimoto's thyroiditis often looks like an underactive thyroid gland. If so, it can be treated with medicine. The medicine replaces lost thyroid hormone. That should stop your symptoms. It can also ease a goiter if you have one. A goiter can cause problems like pain or trouble swallowing, breathing, or speaking. If these symptoms don’t get better, you may need surgery to remove the goiter.
When should I call my health care provider?Tell your health care provider if your symptoms get worse or you have new symptoms.
Key points about Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
- Hashimoto's thyroiditis can cause your thyroid to not make enough thyroid hormone.
- Doctors do not know what causes Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. But your immune system and things in your environment may play a part.
- Symptoms may include goiter, tiredness, weight gain, and muscle weakness.
- You do not need treatment if your thyroid hormone levels are normal. If you have an underactive thyroid, medicine can help.
Next stepsTips to help you get the most from a visit to your health care provider:
- Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
- Bring someone with you to help you ask questions and remember what your provider tells you.
- At the visit, write down the names of new medicines, treatments, or tests, and any new instructions your provider gives you.
- If you have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
- Know how you can contact your provider if you have questions.
- Hanrahan, John, MD
- newMentor board-certified, academically affiliated clinician