Hashimoto's Thyroiditis

Hashimoto's Thyroiditis is the most common form of hypothyroidism, or under active thyroid. Hashimoto's Thyroiditis is believed to be an autoimmune disease. An autoimmune disease occurs when for unknown reasons the body begins to attack itself. In Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, the person will develop antibodies that will destroy healthy thyroid tissue.

What are the symptoms of Hashimoto's Thyroiditis?

One of the most noticeable symptoms of Hashimoto's Thyroiditis is goiter. Goiter is an enlargement of the thyroid gland. As the thyroid begins to produce less hormones it attempts to compensate and the thyroid gland enlarges. The thyroid gland is found in the area of the neck. Therefore, goiter will be appear as an enlarged bulging area in the neck.

Other symptoms of Hashimoto's Thyroiditis include dry skin, brittle nails, muscle stiffness, and fatigue. Women may experience problems with their menstrual cycle. Because thyroid hormones play a part in metabolism, the decrease in hormones will slow the person's metabolism. She may notice a decrease in appetite, weight gain, and constipation.

What causes Hashimoto's Thyroiditis?

Hashimoto's Thyroiditis is a type of autoimmune disease. It is unknown why autoimmune diseases occur, but there is believed to be a hereditary component. Although not completely understood, the tendency for Hashimoto's Thyroiditis to run in families has been noted. Having an existing autoimmune disease, such as diabetes mellitus, puts a person at greater risk for developing Hashimoto's Thyroiditis.

How will my doctor know if I have Hashimoto's Thyroiditis?

Hypothyroidism has a gradual onset with the symptoms developing over an extended period of time. Your doctor will determine whether you have Hashimoto's Thyroiditis by taking a thorough medical history including any history of autoimmune disease in yourself or any other family member, documenting onset of symptoms and observing symptoms, and running lab work or other diagnostic tests. She will check your thyroid hormone levels, in particular TH, T4, and TSH. In hypothyroidism, there will be a decrease in TH and T4 and an increase in TSH may be seen.

Treatment for Hashimoto's Thyroiditis

Hashimoto's Thyroiditis is treated with an oral medication such as Synthroid or Levoxyl. This medication most likely will need to be taken for the rest of one's life. Symptoms should resolve with medication. Thyroid medications may need to be adjusted periodically. They may interfere with other medications such as insulin or cardiac medications so it is important to discuss this and all medications with any of your treating doctors and your pharmacist.

Additional Resources

American Thyroid Association

Thyroid Foundation of America

Thyroid Foundation of Canada