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What Is Hashimoto’s Disease? The Ultimate Guide

Did you know that Hashimoto’s disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the United States?

When your thyroid gland doesn’t make enough thyroid hormone, it can lead to hypothyroidism, which profoundly impacts your life and overall health. And Hashimoto’s disease can also lead to serious health complications if left untreated.

Even though Hashimoto’s disease is the most common culprit of an underactive thyroid gland, most don’t know much about it.

Many people ask the question, what is Hashimoto’s disease? Luckily, you’re in the right place! Our guide will explain all about Hashimoto’s disease, as well as the symptoms, treatments, and causes.

What Is Hashimoto’s Disease?

Hashimoto’s disease, also known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, is a disease that occurs when your immune system goes on the attack and targets your thyroid gland.

Your thyroid gland is located at the base of your neck and is a critical part of your endocrine system. Your thyroid produces hormones that coordinate many functions of the body, such as turning food into energy.

When your thyroid is inflamed from Hashimoto’s disease, it can lead to an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism).

Causes of Hashimoto’s

Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disorder when your body creates specific antibodies that damage your thyroid gland. That exact cause isn’t known, but it’s thought to be a combination of either a virus or a bacteria that trigger an immune system response.

This immune system response creates antibodies that attack and damage your thyroid gland. As a result, your thyroid gland becomes inflamed, and it can’t produce the right amount of thyroid hormones.

Risk Factors

Though the exact cause of Hashimoto’s isn’t known, certain risk factors can increase your risk of developing Hashimoto’s disease, such as:

  • Women are more likely to develop Hashimoto’s disease
  • Hashimoto’s disease is more common between the ages of 30 and 50
  • If you have family members with thyroid disease or other autoimmune diseases
  • If you have another autoimmune disease like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis
  • If you’re exposed to high levels of environmental radiation

Hashimoto’s Symptoms

With Hashimoto’s disease, many people don’t have any symptoms at first. But as Hashimoto’s disease progresses, you’ll start to develop a swelling in front of your throat called a goiter. Hashimoto’s goes slowly over the years and causes chronic damage to your thyroid. Other signs of Hashimoto’s include:

  • Increased sensitivity to cold temperatures
  • Constipation
  • Dry skin
  • Fatigue and feeling sluggish
  • Hair loss
  • Puffy face
  • Weight gan
  • Muscle stiffness and joint pain
  • Depression and memory lapses

Hashimoto’s Complications

If you leave hypothyroidism that’s caused by Hashimoto’s untreated, it can lead to serious health problems such as:

Chronic stimulation of your thyroid gland can cause it to become enlarged, referred to as a goiter. Hypothyroidism most commonly causes goiters. Goiters are not painful, but large goiters can interfere with breathing or swallowing and impact your appearance.

Hashimoto’s disease and chronic hypothyroidism can cause an increased risk of heart disease. Hashimoto’s is associated with high LDL or “bad” cholesterol and can cause an enlarged heart or heart failure.

Chronic hypothyroidism can become severe. It can advance to a condition called myxedema. Myxedema is caused by untreated or undiagnosed hypothyroidism and can be life-threatening. Myxedema can lead to facial swelling and eventually a comatose state.

If you’re pregnant and have untreated hypothyroidism due to Hashimoto’s, you’re at higher risk of having a baby born with intellectual and developmental problems.

Hashimoto’s Diagnosis

If you have symptoms of an underactive thyroid, then the first thing your doctor will do is check your thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) to see if it is abnormal. The TSH test is a sensitive test that can detect problems with your thyroid before you even notice symptoms.

Since Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disorder, it produces abnormal antibodies. A blood test can detect the presence of thyroid peroxidase (TPO) antibodies.

A standard imaging test ordered to diagnose Hashimoto’s is an ultrasound of your thyroid gland. The ultrasound gives essential information about the size and appearance of your thyroid gland. It can also detect any nodules or growths in or around your thyroid.

Hashimoto’s Treatment

Hashimoto’s disease has no cure, but treatments can regulate your hormone levels and restore your hormone levels. Synthetic thyroid hormone medications like Synthroid, Levoxyl, or Unithroid can all restore your thyroid function. Thyroid medications have to be taken for the rest of your life.

Initially, your doctor will need to check your thyroid hormone levels every 6 to 8 weeks after you begin treatment. Once the right dose is determined, you’ll only need to have your thyroid levels checked every 6 to 12 months.

You’ll also have to be careful with specific supplements and foods, as they can decrease your ability to absorb your thyroid medication. These include:

  • Iron supplements
  • Antacids
  • Certain medications that lower cholesterol levels
  • Calcium supplements

As with any chronic disease, changing your lifestyle, diet, and stress levels can significantly affect how your treatment. Take an honest look at your diet and start to incorporate more fruits and vegetables in your meals.

Daily exercise is vital! Start by going out for walks. Just 30 minutes of exercise a day can boost your mood in the best possible way. Also, look at ways you can decrease the stress in your life. Stress, anxiety, and emotional pain all play a part in the overall health of your body.

So don’t forget to look at natural ways to ease your stress and improve your health. Check out this homepage to learn how stress and the nervous system work together and what you can do about it.

The Ultimate Hashimoto’s Disease Guide

Even though there is no cure for Hashimoto’s disease, you can still live a long, active, happy life. Learning about our bodies is a never-ending process, so don’t be afraid to keep researching and asking the question, what is Hashimoto’s disease?

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