Hashimoto thyroiditis is a chronic inflammation of the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is in the front of the neck just below the Adam's apple. It secretes thyroid hormone, which is important in metabolism throughout the body.
Hashimoto thyroiditis is considered an autoimmune disease. This means that a person's immune system attacks his or her own body. No one knows why this happens. With this disease, the immune system attacks the thyroid gland. This can cause thyroid hormone imbalances.
Hashimoto's thyroiditis is one of the most common causes of a low thyroid hormone level, called hypothyroidism.
Symptoms of Hashimoto thyroiditis may include: an enlarged thyroid glandconstipationdepressiondry, rough skinfatigueslow heartbeat, known as bradycardiaweight gain for no apparent reason
Most people who have Hashimoto thyroiditis will have a low level of thyroid hormone. So, these symptoms are primarily related to this low level.
Symptoms from low thyroid hormone are usually what cause a person to see the healthcare professional. In other cases, the thyroid hormone level may be high, which causes almost opposite symptoms. For example: weight lossfast heartbeatdiarrheamoist skin
The exact cause of Hashimoto thyroiditis is not known. As with all autoimmune disorders, the immune system abnormally attacks the body. Hashimoto thyroiditis also occurs more often in people who have other autoimmune disorders and diabetes.
Nothing can be done to prevent the disease because the exact cause is not understood.
The healthcare professional will take a medical history and complete a physical examination. He or she will usually order blood tests, including: thyroid function testsa complete blood count, also known as CBC
Additional blood tests or special X-ray tests can usually confirm the diagnosis of Hashimoto thyroiditis.
Sometimes a thyroid fine needle biopsy may be needed. To do a biopsy, the healthcare professional will take a small sample of the thyroid gland with a special needle that he or she inserts through the skin. A healthcare professional (such as a pathologist) can look at this sample under a microscope to make the diagnosis.
Hashimoto thyroiditis often causes low thyroid hormone levels, called hypothyroidism. This condition may be permanent. This means that the person may need to take thyroid hormone replacement medicine for the rest of his or her life.
There are no risks to others, as this disease is not contagious.
Treatment generally focuses on managing the level of thyroid hormone.
If the level is low, as it is in most cases, the healthcare professional will prescribe thyroid hormone pills.
If the thyroid level is high, the healthcare professional will prescribe medicines that block thyroid hormone from working in the body.
Rarely, surgery may be needed if the thyroid gland gets too big.
All medicines have side effects. If too much thyroid medicine is given, the levels can become toxic.
Medicines used to treat abnormal thyroid levels may cause: allergic reactionsstomach upsetother side effects
Surgery carries the following risks: bleedinginfectiona reaction to the anesthesia
A person with Hashimoto thyroiditis often requires monitoring and treatment for life.
Periodic thyroid function tests and visits to the healthcare professional are recommended to monitor the course of the disease. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare professional as well.
Cecil's Textbook of Medicine, 1996, Bennett et al.