Hashimoto's Thyroiditis

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the thyroid gland, leading to an underactive thyroid, or hypothyroidism. It is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in Europe and North America.

The thyroid is a small gland at the front of the neck. It produces hormones T3 and T4 that regulate how the body uses energy.

In Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, the production of thyroid hormones is too low. This can lead to problems throughout the body, including heart rate, brain function, and metabolism, which is how the body turns food into energy.

A goiter may develop, a non-cancerous enlargement of the thyroid gland at the front of the neck.

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis also known as Hashimoto’s disease or chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis.

The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists estimate that Hashimoto’s thyroiditis affects about 14 million Americans. It is seven times more common in females than in males and is most likely to appear between the ages of 45 and 65 years.

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is less common among children, but in areas where there is too little iodine in the diet, a significant proportion of children can develop the disease.

Signs and symptoms

In Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, the immune system attacks the thyroid gland.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis develops gradually over several years, causing progressive thyroid damage. The patient’s levels of thyroid hormones gradually decrease.

The signs and symptoms of Hashimoto’s disease overlap with other types of hypothyroidism.

They include:

  • Abnormal sensitivity to cold temperatures
  • A rise in blood cholesterol levels
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Depression
  • Dry skin
  • Enlarged neck
  • Face may appear swollen, puffed up
  • General tiredness
  • Prolonged menstruation in females, with abnormally heavy bleeding
  • Muscle pain
  • Pale skin
  • Stiffness, especially the hands and feet
  • Voice becomes hoarse
  • Weight gain that is not linked to overeating

Not everyone with hypothyroidism has the same set of symptoms.

What is a goiter?

Another manifestation of Hashimoto’s is a goiter, which appears as a swelling in the front of the neck.

A lack of iodine is a common cause of goiter in places where there is not enough iodine in the diet.

In the United States Hashimoto’s disease is a more frequent cause. As the immune system destroys the thyroid gland, the gland becomes unable to produce thyroid hormone. As the pituitary gland senses this, it secretes more thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). This causes the thyroid to grow, and a goiter results.

Anyone who has a hoarse voice, constipation, a puffy and pale face, dry skin, and feels tired for no clear reason should see a doctor.