Hashimoto’s Disease is one type of autoimmune disease that affects many Americans, as well as people all over the world. It is also called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Autoimmune diseases are such diseases which arise from an overactive immune response of the body against substances and tissues normally present in the body. In simple words, we can say that the body attacks its own cells. The thyroid gland then becomes inflamed.
This condition is more common in women than in men and starts mostly in adulthood between the ages of 30 and 50. If we take the blood samples of people affected with this disease, you can see that there are an increased number of antibodies to the enzyme thyroid peroxidase which is found in the thyroid gland. As the antibodies over interact with the enzymes, inflammation develops in the thyroid gland and the gland is ultimately destroyed. This leads to a condition called as hypothyroidism in which the thyroid gland does not make enough thyroid hormones T3 and T4.
These diseases are diagnosed with a blood test to see where the thyroid hormones levels are at. Hashimoto’s is also diagnosed with an antibody test, since it is an autoimmune disease. The sensitive TSH test can often detect the presence of the disease before symptoms arise. If it is hypothyroidism, the person is given medication that synthetically adds T3 and T4 to the body. Most patients are told that they will be taking this medication for the rest of their lives, however there are innovative treatments that can help eliminate medications altogether.
The symptoms of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis disease are almost same as that of hypothyroidism. They are fatigue, depression, excessive sleepiness, dry skin and hair, constipation, weight gain, goiter, a hoarse voice, thickened skin, increased cholesterol levels, decreased concentration and swelling of the legs. Women can experience irregular periods. In extreme cases, there may be slow down of heart rate, drop in body temperature. Even heart failure may occur in some critical cases.
The decision to get tested for hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is one that should be made after discussion with your doctor. If you have any of the above symptoms, those may be a good indication of a need to get testing done. Also, if you have a family history of thyroid disease, it is a good idea to go for testing. As you grow older, it is important to be aware of any changes or emerging symptoms that may signal a problem with your thyroid.
Many patients with a history of thyroid disorders in their family may want to seek preventative treatments. The idea is still very controversial and dimissed by many practitioners. There has been research done though involving levothyroxine that have shown promising results. Researchers inGermanyconcluded that preventative treatment of euthyroid Hashimoto’s patients reduced various markers of autoimmune thyroiditis, and speculated that such treatment might be able to stop the progress of Hashimoto’s disease, or perhaps prevent development of hypothyroidism.
Just this year, Japanese researchers found that treatment with levothyroxine can reduce the incidence of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, as well as help alleviate the symptoms of the disease. As more information about these comes forwards we may be able to help reduce the number of patients who suffer from this sometimes debilitating disease.