Please note, this is information I have gathered from various sources and should not be solely relied upon for diagnosis. If you think you may have similar symptoms, I strongly suggest you consult your doctor.
Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune condition. Immune system cells attack the thyroid gland, causing inflammation and, in most cases, eventual destruction of the gland. This reduces the thyroid’s ability to make hormones.
The thyroid gland lies at the front of the throat. The thyroid gland makes hormones that regulate many metabolic processes, including growth and the rate at which your body burns up energy. Hypothyroidism means the thyroid gland is sluggish or under active.
Hashimoto’s disease progresses very slowly over many years, so the symptoms may go unnoticed. The symptoms and signs vary depending on individual factors including the severity of the condition, but may include:
- Unrelenting fatigue
- Feeling the cold
- Swollen face
- Dry, coarsened skin
- Dry hair that is prone to breakage, hair loss
- Voice changes, such as persistent hoarseness
- Fluid retention (oedema)
- Sudden weight gain that cannot be explained by dietary or lifestyle changes
- High blood cholesterol
- Stiff and tender joints, particularly in the hands, feet and knees
- Cognitive changes, such as depression or forgetfulness
- Enlargement of the thyroid gland (goitre)
- In women, heavy menstrual bleeding (menorrhagia).
Sometimes Hashimoto’s disease does not cause any noticeable symptoms. The condition may be discovered during investigations for other, perhaps unrelated, medical problems.
Possible causes of Hashimoto’s disease
The cause of the immune system attack against the thyroid gland is unknown. Most medical researchers believe that a number of both genetic and environmental factors working in combination cause Hashimoto’s disease. Current theories include:
- Some type of microbe, such as a bacterium or virus, may prompt the immune system to attack the thyroid.
- A genetic defect may trigger the immune response. Genetic factors may play an important role, since women are more commonly affected.
- The condition may be related to ageing, since older people are at increased risk.
- Hashimoto’s disease also tends to run in families, which suggests that heredity may be important.
Treatment usually includes medication with the synthetic thyroid hormone (thyroxine). Regular blood tests to monitor thyroid hormone levels are essential to ensure they are within the recommended range.
Patients need to take the medication for life. Medication does not cure the condition, but helps maintain normal thyroid hormone levels.
Most Hashimoto’s patients report that they have episodes were their symptoms are extremely bad. This is due to inflammation in the body. It is quite common for Hashi patients to swell up, retain fluid and to have ongoing difficulty managing their weight even when they are medicated and are considered to be in a healthy hormone range.