Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks thyroid cells and causes inflammation of the thyroid gland. It usually leads to hypothyroidism. What are its causes and symptoms?
The disease is named after the Japanese doctor Hakaru Hashimoto, who discovered it at the beginning of the 20th century. It is one of the most common causes of hypothyroidism, especially in adult women.
In most cases, the disease begins with a painless enlargement of the thyroid gland, so that it can only be diagnosed during a medical consultation. In other cases, the disease can cause a ganglion sensation in the neck, which is painless on palpation. Treatment by an endocrinologist should begin as soon as possible to regulate the function of the thyroid gland and avoid complications.
What are the symptoms of Hashimoto’s disease?
The most common symptoms of Hashimoto’s disease are exactly the same as those of hypothyroidism, namely :
- Rapid weight gain
- Intensive fatigue
- Cold and pale skin
- Enlarged thyroid
- muscle or joint pain
- Brittle hair and brittle fingernails
This problem is most common in women and usually occurs between the ages of 30 and 50. Initially, the doctor can only diagnose hypothyroidism, and after further tests can detect inflammation to make a diagnosis of Hashimoto’s disease.
What causes Hashimoto’s disease?
The causes of Hashimoto’s disease are not scientifically proven, but could be caused by genetic changes. In fact, several cases are often observed within the same family. Other studies suggest that this type of disease can be triggered after infection with a virus or bacterium, which ultimately leads to chronic inflammation of the thyroid gland.
Although there is no known cause, Hashimoto’s disease appears to be more common in people with endocrine disorders such as type 1 diabetes, adrenal dysfunction or other autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, Addison’s disease or lupus.
How is the disease diagnosed?
The best way to diagnose Hashimoto’s disease is to have a blood test done by an endocrinologist to determine the amount of T3, T4 and TSH, and a test for antithyroid antibodies (anti-TPO). In the case of Hashimoto’s disease, TSH is usually above average.
Some people have antithyroid antibodies, but they have no symptoms and are considered a subclinical autoimmune disease. In such cases they do not need treatment.
Are treatments available?
Treatment is only indicated when TSH levels change or symptoms occur. It is usually treated with hormonal drugs, such as Levothyroxine, for about 6 months. Then it is necessary to go back to the doctor to re-evaluate the goiter size to see if it is necessary to switch to another medication or adjust the dose.
If the person is in pain or if the thyroid gland is growing rapidly, corticosteroids may be prescribed for 3-4 weeks to relieve the symptoms.
Food can also have a significant effect on thyroid health. It is therefore recommended that a healthy diet with foods rich in iodine, zinc and selenium is followed.