Generally immune system protects body against bacteria and viruses. But in Hashimoto’s Disease, immune system make antibodies, which attacks the cells of thyroid gland. Doctors do not know why this happens, but some scientists believe genetic factors may be involved. The disease affects more women than men.
Causes of Hashimoto’s Disease
The exact cause of the disease is not known, but many factors are believed to play a role:
Genetic: You are at higher risk of Hashimoto’s disease, if others in your family have thyroid disease or other autoimmune disorder. This suggests a genetic component to the disease.
Hormones: It is seven times more likely to occur Hashimoto’s Disease in women than men. Furthermore, some women have thyroid problems during the first year after having a baby called postpartum thyroiditis. Although the problem usually goes away, but some of these women develop Hashimoto’s years later.
Radiation exposure. People exposed to excessive levels of environmental radiation are more prone to Hashimoto’s disease.
Age. Hashimoto’s disease can occur at any age but more commonly occurs during middle age.
Symptoms of Hashimoto’s disease
You may have Hashimoto’s disease for many years before you experience any symptoms. The disease can progress for a long time, before it causes noticeable thyroid damage. The first sign is often an enlarged thyroid, called a goiter. The goiter may cause the front of your neck to look swollen. You may feel it in your throat, or it may be hard to swallow. Other sign and symptoms of an underactive thyroid due to Hashimoto’s may include:
- Dry, pale skin
- Hoarse voice
- Inability to get warm
- Joint and muscle pain
- Hair loss
- Irregular menstrual periods
- Slowed heart rate
- Puffiness of the face
Because the symptoms of Hashimoto’s thyroid may be similar to those for other medical conditions, it is important to see your doctor for a diagnosis.
Diagnosis of Hashimoto’s disease
In general, your doctor may test for Hashimoto’s disease if you’re feeling increasingly tired or sluggish, have dry skin, constipation, and a hoarse voice, or have had previous thyroid problems or a goiter.
Diagnosis of Hashimoto’s disease is based on your signs and symptoms and the results of blood test. These may include:
Thyroid function test: This blood test tells whether your body has the right amounts of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) and thyroid hormone. A high level of TSH is a sign of an underactive thyroid. When the thyroid begins to fail, the pituitary gland makes more TSH to trigger the thyroid to make more thyroid hormone. When the damaged thyroid can no longer keep up, your thyroid hormone levels drop below normal.
An antibodies test: This test confirm the presence of antibodies against thyroid peroxidase (TPO antibodies). The presence of TPO antibodies in your blood suggests that, the cause of thyroid disease is an autoimmune disorder. Furthermore, TPO antibody test isn’t always positive in everyone with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. However, many people have TPO antibodies present, but don’t have a goiter, hypothyroidism or other problems.
Most patients with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis will require lifelong treatment with levothyroxine. Furthermore, synthetic levothyroxine taken orally at an appropriate dose, is an inexpensive and very effective in restoring normal thyroid hormone levels. It results in an improvement of symptoms of hypothyroidism.
In addition, Regular use of levothyroxine can return your thyroid hormone levels to normal. However, you’ll probably need regular tests to monitor your hormone levels. This allows your doctor to adjust your dose as necessary.
Left untreated, an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism) caused by Hashimoto’s disease can lead to a number of health problems:
- Heart problems
- Mental health issues
- Birth defects
Hashimoto’s can also cause problems during pregnancy. Furthermore, babies born to women with untreated hypothyroidism due to Hashimoto’s disease may have a higher risk of birth defects than do babies born to healthy mothers. Doctors have long known that these children are more prone to intellectual and developmental problems. There may be a link between hypothyroid pregnancies and birth defects, such as a cleft palate.
A connection also exists between hypothyroid pregnancies and heart, brain and kidney problems in infants. If you’re planning to get pregnant or if you’re in early pregnancy, be sure to have your thyroid level checked.