Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disorder that involves chronic inflammation of the thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland in the neck that secretes hormones to regulate metabolism and growth. “Autoimmune” means that the body’s immune system wrongly attacks the thyroid gland like it would a virus or bacteria. This causes thyroid damage and hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland).
Symptoms of Hashimoto’s disease may include an enlarged thyroid, tiredness, weight gain, slowed heart rate, cold intolerance, dry skin, pale and puffy face, and constipation. Hashimoto’s disease may also be connected to other autoimmune diseases such as celiac disease or type 1 diabetes.
Hashimoto’s disease is caused by a combination of genetics and lifestyle factors. Several genes (when mutated), including those in the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) complex, have been identified as risk factors for Hashimoto’s disease; however, genetic factors only have a small effect. Environmental factors such as a change in sex hormones, viral infections, low vitamin D, high cholesterol, and consuming too much iodine may also trigger Hashimoto’s disease. Hashimoto’s disease is most common in women between the ages of 40 and 60 years old.
Diagnosis usually begins with an examination of medical history and blood tests to determine levels of hormones and antibodies that are common in those with Hashimoto’s disease. Not all people with Hashimoto’s disease require treatment. If the disease has progressed to hypothyroidism, hormone replacement therapy may be an option.
If you or a family member has been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease, speak with your doctor about the most current treatment options. Support groups may also be available for further resources and information.
Description Last Updated: Jul 27, 2018