Originally published: 04.MAR.2022
Last updated: 10.OCT.2023
Medically approved by Kieran Fitzpatrick, Medical Writer
Hashimoto's disease (also referred to as Hashimoto's thyroiditis or chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis) is an autoimmune disorder in which your immune system attacks your thyroid resulting in a decline in hormone production. It is a common cause of hypothyroidism in the United States; a condition in which your thyroid gland doesn't produce enough of certain crucial hormones.
Although it's most common in women, it can affect pretty much anyone. In fact, it affects about 5 out of every 100 Americans alone . From symptoms and causes to diagnosis and management, here's everything you need to know about Hashimoto’s disease.
- What is Hashimoto's Disease?
- What are the Symptoms of Hashimoto’s Disease?
- What Causes Hashimoto’s Disease?
- What are the Complications of Hashimoto’s Disease?
- How to Diagnose and Manage Hashimoto’s Disease
What is Hashmito’s Disease?
Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disorder - an illness that causes the immune system to attack healthy tissues. In the case of Hashimoto’s, the immune system creates antibodies that attack the thyroid gland which damages the thyroid resulting in a decline in hormone production, usually resulting in hypothyroidism (also known as an underactive thyroid gland).
What are the Symptoms of Hashimoto’s Disease?
Hashimoto's disease typically progresses over a long period and more often than not, may show little to no noticeable symptoms. As the thyroid disease progresses, however, it's common to notice an enlarged thyroid - resulting in the front of the neck looking swollen.
Some other symptoms may include:
- Fatigue and sluggishness
- Increased sensitivity to cold
- Pale, dry skin
- Brittle nails
- Hair loss
- Enlargement of the tongue
- Unexplained weight gain
- Muscle aches, tenderness, and stiffness
What Causes Hashimoto’s Disease?
Experts aren’t entirely sure what causes your immune system to attack your thyroid gland but there are some risk factors associated with the disorder, these include:
- Gender: According to Mayo Clinic, while it can affect both genders, women are at an increased risk of developing the disease . It's estimated that it's at least 4 to 10 times more common in women than men .
- Age: Although this disease can occur during the teenage years, it more often appears during middle age.
- Family history: A person's chances of developing Hashimoto's disease increase if they have a family history of the disease or other autoimmune diseases.
- Certain conditions: You are more likely to develop Hashimoto's disease if you are living with another autoimmune disease, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) . Some of these disorders and diseases include Celiac disease, Lupus, Rheumatoid arthritis, Type 1 diabetes, Addison's disease.
What are the Complications of Hashimoto’s Disease?
Thyroid hormones are essential for the healthy function of many crucial bodily functions from regulating weight to controlling energy levels. That is why when Hashimoto’s disease goes undiagnosed and untreated, it can cause several other complications including:
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Goiter (the enlargement of the thyroid)
- Irregular heartbeat
With early diagnosis, people with Hashimoto's disease can be treated. If you are experiencing symptoms of Hashimoto's thyroiditis or you suspect you may be at risk, it's important to speak with your healthcare provider and check in on your thyroid function to avoid any complications.
Related article: The Best Treatment for Thyroid Problems: Diagnosis and Medications
If you would prefer to initially screen your thyroid health from home, you can do so with LetsGetChecked’s range of Thyroid Testing options. Our dedicated clinical team will be available to offer support and you will receive accurate online results within 2-5 days of our lab receiving your sample.
How to Diagnose and Manage Hashimoto’s Disease
A doctor will usually diagnose Hashimoto’s disease using a combination of medical history, physical examinations, and laboratory tests. Some of these tests may include:
- Thyroid Function Tests: Blood tests measuring thyroid hormones (T3 and T4) and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels can help determine how the thyroid is performing.
- Antibody Tests: These tests, including Thyroglobulin Antibodies (TGAB) and Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies (TPO/TPEX), screen for antibodies that can indicate thyroid damage.
Treatment of Hashimoto’s is dependent on the individual case however it can typically be managed with a combination of the correct medication and healthy lifestyle habits such as:
- Regular Monitoring: A regular blood test to check in on your thyroid hormone levels is key to staying on top of your thyroid health. This can be done with your doctor or from home with LetsGetChecked.
- Nutrition: A balanced diet full of the nutrients you need including iodine, selenium, and zinc can help support thyroid function.
- Stress Management: Meditation, yoga, and deep breathing exercises can benefit your health.
- Exercise: Regular physical activity can boost energy levels and help control weight.
The most reliable way to check your thyroid function and thyroid hormone levels is with a test - this can be done by taking a trip to your doctor’s office or from home with a lab test.
LetsGetChecked’s range of Thyroid Tests are simple blood tests that measure key thyroid hormones and can help identify the presence of hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism and thyroid dysfunction or damage. Your online results will be available within 5 days and our medical team will be available to speak with you about the next steps you should take.
You should consider getting tested if you:
- Have symptoms of an overactive thyroid
- Have symptoms of an underactive thyroid
- Have a family history of thyroid conditions
- Have an autoimmune condition such as celiac disease or type 1 diabetes