What is Hashimoto's disease?
Hashimoto's disease is an autoimmune disorder in which your immune system creates antibodies that damage your thyroid gland. Doctors don't know what causes your immune system to attack your thyroid gland. Some scientists think a virus or bacterium might trigger the response, while others believe a genetic flaw may be involved. A combination of factors — including heredity, sex and age — may determine your likelihood of developing the disorder.
What are the Symptoms of Hashimoto's disease?
Symptoms and signs of Hashimoto's thyroiditis resemble those of hypothyroidism generally and are often subtle. They are not specific (which means they can mimic the symptoms of many other conditions) and are often attributed to aging. Patients with mild hypothyroidism may have no signs or symptoms. The symptoms generally become more obvious as the condition worsens, and the majority of these complaints are related to a metabolic slowing of the body. Common symptoms and signs of Hashimoto's thyroiditis include:
- Modest weight gain
- Cold intolerance
- Excessive sleepiness
- Dry, coarse hair
- Dry skin
- Muscle cramps
- Increased cholesterol levels
- Decreased concentration
- Vague achesand pains
- Swelling of the legs
As hypothyroidism becomes more severe, there may be puffiness around the eyes, a slowing of the heart rate, a drop in body temperature, and heart failure. In its most profound form, severe hypothyroidism may lead to a life-threatening coma (myxedema coma). In a severely hypothyroid individual, myxedema coma tends to be triggered by severe illness, surgery, stress, or traumatic injury. This condition requires hospitalization and immediate treatment with thyroid hormone. Properly diagnosed, hypothyroidism can be easily and completely treated with thyroid hormone replacement. Untreated hypothyroidism can lead to an enlarged heart (cardiomyopathy), worsening heart failure and an accumulation of fluid around the lungs (pleural effusion) or heart (pericardial effusion).
People with Hashimoto's thyroiditis often initially experience a hyperthyroid phase (too much thyroid hormone), called hashitoxicosis, as thyroid hormone leaks out of the damaged gland as it is destroyed. Eventually, they become hypothyroid.
Other symptoms and signs include:
- Swelling of the thyroid gland (due to the inflammation), which can cause a feeling of tightness or fullness in the throat
- A lump in the front of the neck from the enlarged thyroid gland called a goiter
- Difficulty swallowing solids and/or liquids due to the enlargement of the thyroid gland with compression of the esophagus
Treatment for Hashimoto's disease
There is no cure for Hashimoto's thyroiditis. The timeframe of the autoimmune process and inflammation will continue is not predictable. In the vast majority of patients, hypothyroidism results from the inflammatory process.Thyroid hormone medication can replace the hormones the thyroid made before the inflammation started. There are two major thyroid hormones made by a healthy gland (T3 and T4). Replacing one or both of these hormones can alleviate the symptoms caused by the absolute or relative lack of hormones as a consequence of Hashimoto's thyroiditis.
Treatment of Hashimoto's thyroiditis involves administration of prescription thyroid hormones. There is no scientific evidence that natural treatments are able to reverse hypothyroidism.People with Hashimoto's thyroiditis do not need to follow a special diet. There is no evidence to suggest that specific foods have any effect on worsening or improving the condition.