Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors
Hashimoto thyroiditis is a chronic inflammation of thethyroid gland. The thyroid gland is in the front of the neck justbelow the Adam’s apple. It secretes thyroid hormone, which isimportant in metabolism throughout the body.
What is going on in the body?
Hashimoto thyroiditis is considered anautoimmune disease.This means that a person’s immune system attacks his or her own body. No oneknows why this happens. With this disease, the immune system attacks the thyroidgland. This can cause thyroid hormone imbalances. Hashimoto thyroiditis is one of themost common causes of a low thyroid hormone level, calledhypothyroidism.
What are the causes and risks of the disease?
The exact cause of Hashimoto thyroiditis is not known.As with all autoimmune disorders,the immune system abnormally attacks the body. Hashimotothyroiditis also occurs more often in people who have otherautoimmune disordersand diabetes.
Symptoms & Signs
What are the signs and symptoms of the disease?
Symptoms of Hashimoto thyroiditis may include:
Most people who have Hashimoto thyroiditis will have a low level of thyroidhormone. So, these symptoms are primarily related to this low level. Symptoms fromlow thyroid hormone are usually what cause a person to see the doctor.
In other cases, the thyroid hormone level may behigh, which causes almost opposite symptoms. For example:
Diagnosis & Tests
How is the disease diagnosed?
The doctor will take a medical history andcomplete a physical examination. He or she will usually orderblood tests, including:
Additional blood tests or special X-ray tests can usually confirmthe diagnosis of Hashimoto thyroiditis.
Sometimes a thyroid fine needle biopsymay be needed. To do a biopsy, the doctor will take a small sample of thethyroid gland with a special needle that he or she inserts through the skin.The doctor can look at this sample under a microscope to make thediagnosis.
Prevention & Expectations
What can be done to prevent the disease?
Nothing can be done to prevent the disease because theexact cause is not understood.
What are the long-term effects of the disease?
Hashimoto thyroiditis often causes low thyroid hormonelevels, called hypothyroidism.This condition may be permanent. This means that the person may need to takethyroid hormone replacement medicine for the rest of his or her life.
What are the risks to others?
There are no risks to others, as this disease is notcontagious.
Treatment & Monitoring
What are the treatments for the disease?
Treatment generally focuses on managing the level of thyroidhormone. If the level is low, as it is in most cases, the doctorwill prescribe thyroid hormone pills. If the thyroid level is high, the doctor will prescribemedicines that block thyroid hormone from working in thebody. Rarely, surgery may be needed if the thyroid gland gets toobig.
What are the side effects of the treatments?
All medicines have side effects. If too much thyroidmedicine is given, the levels can become toxic. Medicines used totreat abnormal thyroid levels may cause:
Surgery carries the following risks:
What happens after treatment for the disease?
A person with Hashimoto thyroiditis often requiresmonitoring and treatment for life.
How is the disease monitored?
Periodic thyroid function testsand visits to the doctor are recommended to monitor thecourse of the disease. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reportedto the doctor as well.
Article type: xmedgeneral