Hashimoto's Disease

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Overview

Hashimoto's thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease, a disorder in which the immune system turns against the body's own tissues. In people with Hashimoto's, the immune system attacks the thyroid. This can lead to hypothyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid does not make enough hormones for the body's needs.

Located in the front of your neck, the thyroid gland makes hormones that control metabolism. This includes your heart rate and how quickly your body uses calories from the foods you eat.

Symptoms

Hashimoto's symptoms may be mild at first or take years to develop. The first sign of the disease is often an enlarged thyroid, called a goiter. The goiter may cause the front of your neck to look swollen. A large goiter may make swallowing difficult. Other symptoms of an underactive thyroid due to Hashimoto's may include:



Weight gain

Fatigue

Paleness or puffiness of the face

Joint and muscle pain

Constipation

Inability to get warm

Difficulty getting pregnant

Hair loss or thinning, brittle hair

Irregular or heavy menstrual periods

Depression

Slowed heart rate


Causes

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. This suggests a genetic component to the disease.

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. Although the problem usually goes away, as many as 20% of these women develop Hashimoto's years later.

Excessive iodine. Research suggests certain drugs and too much iodine, a trace element required by your body to make thyroid hormones, 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.


Risk factors

Sex. Women are much more likely to get Hashimoto's disease.

Age. Hashimoto's disease can occur at any age but more commonly occurs during middle age.

Other autoimmune disease. ...

Genetics and family history. ...

Pregnancy. ...

Excessive iodine intake. ...

Radiation exposure.

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Complications

Goiter. A goiter is enlargement of the thyroid. ...

Heart problems. Hypothyroidism can result in poor heart function, an enlarged heart and irregular heartbeats. ...

Mental health issues. ...

Sexual and reproductive dysfunction. ...

Poor pregnancy outcomes. ...

Myxedema (miks-uh-DEE-muh).

Prevention

Unfortunately, there is no known way to prevent Hashimoto's thyroiditis (or inflammation of the thyroid gland. But on the bright side, this disorder is very treatable. The sooner you get diagnosed, the sooner you can start receiving treatment.