Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune condition that damages the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland can be found on the front of the neck that creates T3 and T4 hormones which are responsible for the regulation of the body’s energy usage. Hashimoto’s disease causes the immune system to create antibodies which attack the thyroid gland. This reduces the gland’s ability to create the important hormones and can lead to underactive thyroid.
The trouble with Hashimoto’s disease is that symptoms can take years to manifest and the issues that do arise can easily be linked with another common illness. One of the first signs of the condition is an enlarged thyroid which makes swallowing a difficult process though it is rarely painful. People who develop Hashimoto’s disease will end up with an underactive thyroid and symptoms such as dry hair, slowed heart rate, fat gain, fatigue, puffy face and potential infertility.
Women develop Hashimoto’s disease around 7 times more often than men. Although it can happen in teenagers, it is most common in middle aged women. If a family member has an autoimmune disease, it increases your chances of developing Hashimoto’s disease. It is also possible that you’ll develop an additional autoimmune disease such as lupus, Graves’ disease or rheumatoid arthritis.
There are a number of reasons why people develop Hashimoto’s disease. It is possible that genetic factors are at play while sex hormones may also increase the risk. This would explain why women are affected far more often than men. If you have a thyroid problem during pregnancy, you could develop Hashimoto’s disease in later life. Exposure to radiation is also believed to have an impact.
In order to find out if you have Hashimoto’s disease, your physician will need to perform a thorough body scan and will also screen the thyroid function. This test involves blood being sent to a laboratory to find out if it contains the correct amount of TSH and T4 thyroid hormone. High TSH levels usually point to an underactive thyroid and a strong likelihood that you have Hashimoto’s disease. People with Hashimoto’s disease will have certain antibodies that those with a different form of underactive thyroid will not possess.
If you have Hashimoto’s disease, taking manmade T4 tablets is one of the best treatments. Over time, these tablets will restore your T4 level back to normal. Unfortunately, you will need to take these tablets daily for the rest of your life and the dosage varies depending on each individual case. You need to be careful not to take too much T4 as this could lead to hyperthyroidism which carries its own problems.