Hashimoto's Thyroiditis is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the United States. It is named after Dr. Hakaru Hashimoto, the doctor who discovered this condition in 1912. It is an autoimmune disease caused by inflammation of the thyroid gland. By autoimmune disease, it means that the body's immune system makes the mistake of attacking the thyroid gland as if it were an invading foreign substance. It's not clear why the autoimmune process takes place but experts say that this disease runs in family. It is a disease that affects more women than men. It starts in adulthood.
What are the Symptoms of Hashimoto's Thyroiditis?
Most of the symptoms of this condition are similar to the symptoms of hypothyroidism. These begin as mild symptoms that become more obvious as the condition progresses.
Commonly noted are:
- dry skin
- modest weight gain
- dry and coarse hair
- excessive sleepiness
- muscle pain and cramps
- increased levels of cholesterol
- intolerance to cold temperature
- inability to focus and concentrate
- aches and pains all over the body
- and swollen legs
When the condition worsens, additional symptoms may be experienced. These include:
- heart failure
- drop in heart rate
- puffiness of the eyes
- drop in body temperature
- myxedema coma:
In most severe cases, a person may fall into a life-threatening coma called myxedema coma. This coma is triggered by stress, surgery, and traumatic injury.
How is Hashimoto's Thyroiditis Diagnosed?
- physical evaluation
To diagnose if you have Hashimoto's thyroiditis, a doctor performs a physical evaluation.
He/she also conducts an interview of the patient to determine what his/her symptoms and complaints are.
- blood test
The doctor will also do a blood test to look at the function of the thyroid. A person with hypothyroidism has high levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and low levels of thyroid hormone. TSH is manufactured by the pituitary gland. If there is a decrease in thyroid hormone, the pituitary gland produces more of the TSH so there is more TSH in the bloodstream.
An ultrasound may also be done to detect if the thyroid gland has become large and if it is compressing the esophagus or trachea.
How is Hashimoto's Thyroiditis Treated?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for this ailment. However, a thyroid hormone medication can be used to replace the hormones that the thyroid has made before the gland has become inflamed. A healthy thyroid gland makes T3 and T4 hormones. If you replace one or both of these hormones, the symptoms of Hashimoto's disease can be alleviated. If you do not undergo this treatment, the signs and symptoms would continue to occur or even worsen over time.
If you suspect that you might have this disease, it's imperative to go to your doctor as soon as possible to undergo blood tests and other tests that will help confirm the diagnosis. Stay on the medication prescribed by the doctor and visit regularly for follow-up check-ups.